A note from the editor: This is a Collegian staff editorial, and every Collegian editorial is written by students. The original version of this editorial inadvertently implied that every person who posted dissenting opinions on Facebook was bitter, and that was not the intention of this piece. We apologize for the generalizations we made. Our true purpose for this article is to admonish brothers and sisters in Christ to consider how our communication has the potential to hinder the Gospel by dividing Christians. But we do possess a powerful tool that can make a difference, more than our words ever could. And that’s prayer.
When Bob Jones University announced on Feb. 6 that it had terminated its contract with GRACE, the third-party organization investigating how the University responds to reports of sexual abuse, the floodgates of criticism and anger burst and hurled a rush of accusations toward the University.
More than 250 Facebook users commented on BJU’s posts about the action it took with GRACE, and the content was a mix of angry remarks, accusations of a cover up, and comments defending the University that were met with intense rebuttals. Commenters said they were ashamed of their alma mater, they’d never send their kids here, and they were disappointed the University would take this course of action.
Yet, on Feb. 6, we didn’t know the full story; BJU had not yet released the statement that specifically said it planned to continue the investigation with GRACE or another organization. Because the public didn’t know all the details, many accusations in criticism of the University could have been mere assumptions. Anger, bitterness and declarations of injustice flowed from some minds that connected non-existent dots and formed assumptions about BJU and its actions.
But because we lacked the knowledge that BJU planned to finish the investigation (information that was clearly announced the following day, on Feb. 7), it may have been difficult not to doubt. We read one statement from BJU and another from GRACE and may have been left with a genuine question: What’s going on here?
Since the initial announcement of the contract termination, BJU has announced it will meet with GRACE in order to discuss points of disagreement and chart a course that will ultimately lead to finishing the investigation that began in 2013. This statement helps connect the dots and shows the University’s intentions for this project. “Bob Jones University and GRACE remain hopeful this project can be completed with GRACE and in so doing raise sexual abuse awareness and minister to victims whose lives have been ravaged by abuse,” the statement said.
Whether or not you have good faith in BJU’s actions, as Christians, our responses to sensitive situations like this should reflect what James commands in Scripture: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Caustic words written in capital letters on a Facebook post do little to change a situation or convince others of your position. Those actions can, however, display a bitter heart that is quick to speak before waiting, listening and understanding the circumstances at hand. This is not to say that anyone who disagrees with the University harbors a bitter heart and is spewing malice through social media. Everyone has a right to speak and express opinions — including dissenting opinions. Everyone has the right to stand in support of his or her beliefs. As Christians, we have to stand firm in our beliefs. So this isn’t a call for Christians to suppress opinions and to be silent.
This is a call, however, for Christians to consider the way we express opinions. Biting words divide the body of Christ and harm our gospel testimonies. Many words that were written through Facebook comments on BJU’s posts showed Christian brothers and sisters who were arguing, whether in support of the University or in disagreement with the University. No matter the position, heated words can harm.
Those who are deeply invested in the GRACE investigation, and especially those who have a strong sense of injustice during this pause in the project, can do one very important thing at this time: pray. It may be the simplest answer, but it is also the most difficult. It’s the humble course of action that expresses complete faith in a Power that is beyond ourselves. Committing this situation to prayer shows a surrendered heart, a heart that isn’t spewing irate words, but a heart that says, “God will take care of this for His purposes.”
We must commit BJU’s relationship with GRACE and the investigation to prayer, because prayer is powerful, life-changing and always necessary. No matter your opinion or confusion toward the situation, God’s work transcends man’s work; so pray that God’s sovereign work will be done through this investigation. It’s the most effective choice we can make — far more effective than dividing the body of Christ through our own frustrated, divisive words.