Late Thursday night last week as I was about to fall asleep, my wife showed me a post that my friend Pastor Courtney Lewis had on Facebook. We could tell from what was said that he had posted engagement pictures from a young couple, and had chastised them for holding hands in their pictures. Pastor Lewis led off his commentary on the picture with a quote from I Corinthians 7:1-2, which says,
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
By the time my wife showed me the post, Pastor Lewis had taken the pictures down, but left the post up. My wife began reading some of the more than 500 comments on the post. Suffice it to say, we were horrified, both by the comments that were being made and by the use of a couple’s engagement pictures to make a point about purity.
When I had a few moments on Friday morning, I took a look at the post for myself. By this time, the post had more than 650 comments, many of which I would characterize as flaming. I scrolled through the comments to get a feel for what people were saying, and then I started typing a message to Pastor Lewis to ask him to remove the post altogether. As I was typing the message, I saw that he in fact had removed the post and replaced it with another. You can read the replacement post here.
In the second post, Pastor Lewis doubled down on the couple he used as an example, naming both the young man and his brother and expressing his disagreement with the engagement pictures each young man had published. In particular, Pastor Lewis pointed out that the older brother had posted similar pictures, and that since nobody opposed him for it, now the younger brothers thought it was okay. Pastor Lewis also took to task larger churches with more influence who could speak out on this. He didn’t name the larger churches he had in mind. I can only think of one larger church that he might be thinking of, but I won’t speculate about whether he thought they should have been the one to shame these couples.
I absolutely agree with the standard Pastor Lewis holds. My wife and I did not so much as hold hands until we met at the altar on our wedding day. We have taught this same standard in our church and to our children, and we would not approve if they went against it. Because many of the vitriolic comments Pastor Lewis received focused on the standard itself, I made the choice to support him on the standard, and to publicly express my concern for the way many had responded.
Later that afternoon, I received a call from a pastor friend who had read my comment and wanted to know if I also supported the tactic Pastor Lewis used to make his point. He made it abundantly clear to me that he agrees with the standard – several of his children have married, and they followed that standard as well. But he was concerned about the tactic of publicly shaming a young couple, using their engagement pictures. After hem-hawing around for a minute, I had to agree. The tactic was wrong. I was disgusted by it from the moment my wife brought it to my attention. My pastor-friend (who mainly knows Pastor Lewis through Facebook), pointed out that my comment left it unclear where I stood on the tactic. I agreed with him.
Later that evening, I typed a second comment, in which I expressed my agreement with the standard and my disagreement with the tactic. I commented that, if one of my own children were to publish engagement pictures that went against our standards, I would hope that the first response would be to pray for them, and the second to contact me to see if there is a problem and what can be done to help. I would hope that the first response would not be to publicly shame them. Far too often, when a young person does something wrong, we trample them under foot rather than address the problem Scripturally.
I sent Pastor Lewis a message prior to posting my comment, and I offered to discuss any disagreement with him. He replied fairly quickly with a simple “No” to my offer for a discussion. I posted my comment, went to bed, and the next morning, I had a message from Pastor Lewis that assured me of his friendship despite our disagreement. I didn’t think much of the reassurance until another friend contacted me to ask why I took my comment down. Since I didn’t take it down, I asked Pastor Lewis if he did. He told me, “Yes. Feel free to post it on your account.” Thus, this rather lengthy post.
Before I wade into the issue here, let me make a few preliminary points.Continue reading “On Shaming Your Neighbor”