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Jonathan Acuff, the man behind the popular site Stuff Christians Like and author of a book with the same title, wrote this week for CNN about why Christians sometimes act like jerks online. He cites debates over beer and Bono as examples that draw out the worst in Christians on the Web. Acuff rightly observes that Christians fail to live up to their namesake with the name-calling so commonplace in online forums.

Much like “Christian hate mail,” being a “Jerk Christian” defies logic. We serve a loving God. We follow a Christ who very plainly told us what to do. In Matthew 22 someone asks Jesus, “What is the most important commandment?” The answer is simple:

“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 neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Acuff suggests two reasons Christians are tempted to act this way. First, anonymity allows us to hide behind our computer screens and offer harsh words without seeing their effect. Even if kind and loving in person, we may morph into jerks online. Second, when faced with life-long challenges like learning to love our neighbors, Christians may find it easier to sweat the small things. We lose all sense of proportion and our cool.

Any of us who write and read on the Internet can attest to Acuff’s observation about the tone of much Christian debate online. I have no reason to think Christians are actually worse than others on the Web. Visit a political blog or even your local newspaper’s site, and you’ll see some pretty nasty stuff. Yet we have a different standard, a higher calling, and a better example to follow in Jesus Christ. To be sure, Jesus spoke with utmost clarify and color when opposing the Pharisees. Defending the faith requires vigilance. But it also requires trust in God that we don’t have to be jerks in order to make our points.

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