A couple of years ago, I was hiking on a mountain trail above our home. As I hiked, I came across a very large and aggressive dog. I could see the owner had let his dog off leash to enjoy a run. Unleashed dogs are not allowed on this particular trail system. There are signs at all the trailheads telling dog owners to keep their pets on a leash. I am guessing the primary reason for this restriction is to prevent dogs from chasing the wildlife.
When the dog saw me he began to growl, lower his head and move toward me in a very threatening fashion. The owner tried calling back his dog, but the dog was now deaf to his owner’s plea. The man called out to me with words that were less than reassuring, “He’s never done this before!” I felt vulnerable to say the least. In the end the man was able to get his dog under control and I was able to continue living my life without bite marks. This unleashed dog reminds me of what has happened with social media to some people in the Church. The comments, likes, shares and tweets of some have become like unleashed aggressive dogs let loose without thinking about the ramifications of what will happen when they allow their words to run unrestrained on the Internet.
Self-control was listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit for a reason. Self-control seems out of place listed alongside the other fruit that have more poetic names like love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. Self-control is like a greasy wrench in the fruit bowl. It seems to not fit. It is actually listed last because the rest of them won’t work unless you attach the leash of self-control to your potentially aggressive input. Try being gentle without having self-control or being kind without self-control. It doesn’t work. Paul told the prophets in Corinth that a prophet is in control of his spirit. Self-control is one of the hallmarks of a Spirit-led life.
The next time someone criticizes a well-meaning benefit for the cure of a horrible disease or a big-name pastor who is a friend of sinners or someone who swims in a different stream of the Spirit than you – stop. Stop and go get your leash and connect your emotions to the fruit of self-control. Like all forms of distant and impersonal criticism our participation makes us look like a rabid dog meeting someone on the trail of God’s Kingdom. The signs on this Kingdom trailhead tell everyone to believe the best about each other and not allow a devouring spirit to be our only witness to a world already bitten and bleeding by the effects of sin.