(Because of ongoing threats to their safety & privacy, real names and identities will remain private.)
A few weeks ago, my wife and I’s friend, Verity, told me her mom went viral, thankfully not Corona viral. Twitter viral. As my friend divulged the details to us, she said about her mom, “She’ll probably never know, but she’s trending on Twitter.”
Who is my friend’s mom? She’s the lady in Wisconsin who attended a lockdown protest and held up an “I Want a Haircut” sign.
Stephen Colbert featured a picture of her on his show and quipped, “Many of the protesters lamented the loss of everyday activities, like a woman in Wisconsin with the sign, ‘I want a haircut.’ It should read, ‘I want to endanger the lives of your grandparents in exchange for frosted tips.”
Soon she became known on Twitter as the “I Want a Haircut Lady.” Take a peak at some of these tweets viciously taking aim at her character:
“No stylist can perfectly frame your ugly soul.”
“Take that “I want a haircut” lady. It’s not just that the state is inconveniencing her by closing the salon. It’s that the state is taking away (people) who she views to be her servants.”
“What are a few million deaths when (she) needs a haircut?”
I gave you a sampling of the tamer tweets without expletives or graphic sexual innuendos attached. I could embed these and hundreds more directly into this blog, but I didn’t want our audience to be tempted to give the tweets more direct attention than they’ve already received.
Verity’s mom is not on Twitter, so luckily, she’ll probably never know about the outrage people have directed at her. She’ll never know that a Twitter mob worked to ID her publicly in order to give out her address in an attempt to intimidate her.
She’ll probably also never know because she has no use for Twitter. She’s just a sweet, fun-loving lady who enjoys bringing humor to every situation. She also happened to protest because she disagrees with her state’s mandated quarantine.
Her only intent in making the sign was to make the protest a little more light-hearted. And ironically, to Stephen Colbert and everyone else who has demonized her as a grandparent killer, she’s a grandma.
Admittedly, I find myself getting angry about this. So, what should I do? Get outraged at the outrage? Turn my anger on the Twitter mob and start a Twitter fight? Try to ruin the lives of the people who used expletives and sexually suggestive insults to shame a grandma?
Jesus Shocks His Enemies
Regardless of what you think about quarantine or the protests, Jesus suggests a different way to answer outrage and insults. And in His time on earth, He didn’t just deal with a Twitter mob. He dealt with a real mob.
As he felt the excruciating pain and humiliation of getting stripped naked, beaten, crucified, and mocked, He looked at the crowd and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:24 NLT) After he said that, they continued to mock Him.
To be clear, I don’t equate holding up an “I Want a Haircut” sign and getting demonized on Twitter to Jesus getting crucified on the cross.
What I do want to highlight is Jesus’ reaction to the unimaginable humiliation and physical pain He endured. He doesn’t pray, “God, give me vengeance! God, ruin their lives.” He essentially says, “God, give them mercy.”
He wasn’t outraged by their treatment of Him. He understood they were broken people who truly didn’t know what they were doing. He wasn’t offended by the things they said or the ways they hurt Him. They were broken, and He was grieved by their brokenness.
Outrage is an interesting thing. I experience it when I expect others to live up to my standards, and they don’t. I also experience it when anybody questions my character. In other words, my outrage is always a direct result of some type of self-righteousness.
Whenever I’ve forgotten Jesus in my life’s narrative, I start to invent strict moral standards, habits, and guidelines for the world around me. Whether it’s a healthy diet, a good work ethic, or “common courtesy,” I start to feel frustrated with people who don’t live up to my standards for how everybody should act.
When I forget Jesus, I start to forget my brokenness without Christ. I start to look at my life as something good I built from my own effort. My failures start to make me anxious and depressed. My successes give me intoxicating highs. And I forget humility because I forget that I can’t earn God’s love or His favor.
When I forget Jesus, I forget mercy- mercy for myself and mercy for others.
That’s the problem.
Much of Twitter has forgotten Jesus. Right now, I’m scrolling through it, and the trending tweets are a combination of news, false personal attacks, and users celebrating the physical harm of their political enemies. And that’s just one thread.
When we see Jesus say, “…love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” His words might seem overly familiar and not very revolutionary. But they are revolutionary.
Why? No one can do it.
Without Jesus, no one can truly love and pray for their enemies. In the past when I’ve read this in Matthew 5:44, I’ve mistranslated it as, “Have merciful/good feelings about your enemies and quickly ask God to bless people who talk bad about you.”
Jesus was really saying, “Actively sacrifice yourself and be overtly kind to your enemies! Intercede for those who beat you and actively insult you!”
Sometimes I want to lash out at strangers on social media for the way they treat my friends. Initially, when I heard that users on Twitter were insulting our friend’s sweet, fun-loving mom, I wanted vengeance, at least verbal vengeance. I wanted to put the Twitter mob in their place. Thankfully, by God’s grace, I relented.
Instead of typing up something snarky and hitting reply to the hurtful comments, the Lord reminded me to love my enemies and pray for them. And a good prayer might be, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
In an online culture of outrage, remember mercy. Remember love. Remember Jesus.
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