Snarling Dogs

“This is hilarious! Lynne, you’ve got to look at this,” I said to my bride as I watched the Reel on Facebook play out for the third time. Lynne doesn’t do Facebook (she’s smarter than I am), so she somewhat reluctantly came over to look. The video showed two dogs on opposite sides of a driveway gate snarling at each other, lips barred, and growling. Then the gate slowly began to open and they both stopped growling and just looked at each other. The gate slowly closed again, and they went back to snarling mode. It was hilarious!

It started me thinking about how people tend to go into full-on snarling dog mode on social media. Like the dogs in the video, we often lack restraint in our responses when we’re not face-to-face with someone. I’m guessing that God isn’t laughing when He looks down on some of our social media posts, as I did with the video.

Growing up in a relatively poor family of six kids, my twin brother Roger and I wore a lot of hand-me-down clothes to school, at least until we were old enough to work and start buying our own clothes. Kids can be cruel, and they frequently mocked us for it. My mom told us to respond with the old “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” reply. Sadly, that response rang somewhat hollow. Words can and often cut deep into our souls. The Apostle Paul cautions us to:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29, ESV

Today we live in a very polarized society, much of it caused by social media, but some of it just might be influenced by our constitutional right to “freedom of speech.” Freedom of speech has become a big issue these days. Court cases abound, as there are many who feel that anyone who says something they find offensive should be punished. The courts have always upheld that fundamental right, but as Christians, we have to ask ourselves tough questions. I may have the “right” to say it, but is it the “right” thing to say?

Once again, the Apostle Paul comes to the rescue with sage counsel about our freedom of speech.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

Galatians 5:13-15, ESV

The words “bite and devour” remind me of the two dogs at the gate.

One final thought. The Apostle James’ Epistle is often referred to as “the Proverbs” of the New Testament, as it provides practical wisdom for the Christian. James tells us this:

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

James 1:19-20, ESV

James followed up the statement above by saying,

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

James 1:22, ESV

Christians are called to:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29, ESV

As Christians, let us honor our God and Father by speaking words that heal rather than words that hurt.

Adapted from Men of Valor Devotional by Ron Helle, 5 July 2024

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