Then I clicked the “send” button … October 02 2015

“Then I clicked the ‘send’ button — and it changed the path of my life forever.”  This is a quote from a man in the United Kingdom lamenting the email that he sent, in anger, to the woman he said he loved.  The rest of the article enumerates his long list of regrets from that one, simple keystroke. 

God’s admonition to us in James 1:19 is “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”  Or in email parlance, “Pause before hitting ‘send.’” The problem is, it was not just about a keystroke – it was also about the thought process behind it.

On one hand, the discipline of writing down a message you want to convey to someone can be part of a James 1:19-type plan to be “slow to speak.”  On the other hand, if the email is hastily conceived, without the intent to demonstrate love, it may be no different than a direct, verbal assault.  The additional problem with an email, is that it can be shared with others you never intended to have see it, damaging relationships further.  

One of the reminders my employer gives us periodically, is that we should expect that whatever we put into an email may become known at some point in the future.  This is primarily an admonition to avoid possibly embarrassing the agency or to reduce the possibility of a successful lawsuit.  However, it is good to remember that our objective, as Christians, is not just to prevent ourselves from being embarrassed; it is to demonstrate true, Christ-like love.

Or you might have heard someone say “Just write down what you think about that person and delete the email.”  What’s wrong with that approach?  Jesus said “whoever is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court” (i.e. as guilty as if a murder has been committed – Matthew 5:21-22).  In other words, what we dwell on in our thoughts is as important as carrying out the act itself.  

This is a high standard.  But it is an example of the radical, sacrificial love God expects us to exhibit, even when we may not feel like it.  This is why Jesus’ demonstration of love on the cross is so significant.  It gave us the ultimate example of love, and also serves as the motivation for us to love others.  May God help us remember this the next time we are tempted to lash out at someone else, whether it be sinning electronically or the old fashion way.    

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Steve Smith