I began studying communication in 2002, or thereabouts. The opening paragraph of my first textbook contained an arresting statement, ‘A key principle of good communication is don’t offend your audience’.
(Or, try not to, at least. It’s easy to offend nowadays).
In other words, your audience will check out if the message is offensive; which defeats the purpose of saying it in the first place.
While I deeply admire his boldness and conviction, I think Israel Folau’s recent social media post, “Hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters unless they repent”, falls into this category. If he hopes to convert people to Christ, a digital sucker punch might not be the best approach.
Another important principle in communication is ‘framing’. This concept refers to the idea that your message needs to be presented in an attractive and influential way. In this context, I think there are other scriptures to consider before hitting tweet.
Romans Chapter 2, verse 4:
“Are you aware of the fact that God’s goodness (or kindness) leads a person to repentance (that is, to change your mind and accept God’s will for your life)”.
Hang around a good person long enough (you know, the ones who are kind, considerate, patient, never stop believing in you, give away time and money etc.,) and you’ll notice your flaws without the good person saying a word.
In Matthew Chapter 22, verses 37 to 39, we read:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
It feels like sometimes we prefer to judge and criticize our neighbours rather than love them. We quote scriptures to people who don’t believe in God or His Word and expect them to change. Sometimes, this is done without any reference to God’s kindness, goodness and gentleness.
Does the Bible carry laws and principles for Christians to live by? Yes. Are certain scriptures controversial today? Yes. Does being a follower of Jesus require self-sacrifice and self-denial? Yes. But has your neighbor signed-up for this lifestyle? Probably not.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I think religious freedoms and the freedom of speech are fundamental human rights. I agree with 2GB’s Alan Jones (Australian radio host) that the decision to sack Israel Folau is a “slippery slope” for free speech in Australia.
“Out there, people now are terrified of saying anything; they don’t know what they can say,” Jones said.
But, brothers and sisters, let’s think before we speak. Remember we’re not perfect. Remember God asks us to remove the sin from our own life before identifying it in others. With God’s help, let’s be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, as there is no law against these things.
Deborah Chan is a freelance political writer based in Melbourne, Australia.