Today this passage jumped out at me:
Therefore encourage on another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Okay, the first thing I have to point out is that in this sentence, Paul practices exactly what he preaches. He says "you are doing a good thing here -- keep doing it!" He doesn't say "Well you need to do this and this and this" and turn it into a long discouraging lecture. He notes what his readers are already doing!
But the second thing I want to talk about is sarcasm - especially internet sarcasm.
When did sarcasm start? Is it something that has always been around, or has it developed over the years? Are there incidents of sarcasm in the Bible? I think there are some words of Jesus that could be seen as sarcastic -- although our Lord always used anything along the lines of sarcasm to illuminate a point, NEVER to cut down others.
I don't know about you, but it seems to me that sarcasm is pretty popular today. People use it a lot. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes you get the point exactly. Sometimes it is just a way of "witty bantering" that hearkens back to screwball comedies.
But the difficulty is, how do you know where to draw the line? Because sarcasm is NOT inherently something that builds others up. It is almost always a sentence that implies negativity of some sort, and it is terribly easy to cause offense without meaning so. OR, sarcasm can betray inner negativity that the speaker was not actually intending to reveal.
And if real life sarcasm has dangers, that is nothing compared to the pitholes of online sarcasm, where faces are invisible and even the friendliest of sarcasm can get mistaken for ire and hatred.
I'm not bringing this up as a lecture... sarcasm is something I've always struggled with. I do try not to use it online, unless it is a conversation in which there is no way the meaning can be mistaken. And there are obviously some situations in which you can be sarcastic about something and everyone will know what you mean.
I made a sarcastic comment last week. It was meant to be funny, and I'm fairly certain it was taken as funny. However I realized a second later that the issue at hand really wasn't one that I wanted to infuse with negativity. I'd made my joke -- but I wanted to clarify that the object of my words would actually be quite good at the subject under discussion.
Reading Thessalonians made me realize how this shouldn't be a rare occurrence -- it should be my regular mode of operation. How much more will get accomplished by building up and encouraging others, than by making a joke at their expense?