Do you know about troll farms? Until recently, I lived in blissful ignorance. But then I learned how thousands and thousands of people in countries like China, Malaysia, Philippines, Turkey, Russia (and more!) are hired for the sole purpose of stirring up dissent on the Internet. And—yikes!—they are often paid by their governments.
It’s hard to wrap my head around doing a job where the whole point is to be a pain in the tuchus to other people, to rile them up, to get them fighting. (I mean, I know that’s Satan’s job, but I don’t like that humans are paid to do it.) While we know the negative effects social media can have on users, I also wonder about the effect it has on the trolls’ emotional, mental, and spiritual health. I really don’t see any positive coming from the whole shebang.
As easy as it is to become righteously indignant that governments pay people to cause trouble, we should be as quick to ask how often we are trolls for free.
If you call yourself a Christian (like I do), the fruit of the Spirit is not troll-like behavior.* God has not called you to let your emotions get the best of you. He has called you to be a peacemaker, to be gentle, to be good, to be kind, to be loving. He has called you to stop thoughts from running around in your mind but instead to control those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. He has called you to keep control over your mouth so that the words you say, even if they are hard and necessary, are spoken in love.
This is a tall order, so how about we start in two areas?
- Don’t be a troll in your community. God has called Christians to be salt and light for a dark world that needs preserving. How will people know how good God is if the people who represent him are angry, bitter, and lack love? We have the awesome privilege of showing and telling the people at work, at school, at sporting events, and on social media just what a difference Jesus makes in our lives, both now and eternally.
- Don’t be a troll in church. The Bible is clear that if Christians keep fighting and biting at each other, we will devour each other. It’s easy to list examples of when people in the church have gotten distracted by things that don’t actually matter in the eternal perspective. That leaves us with little time to fulfill the purpose God has for us, which is to do good to all, especially to the family of believers, and to make disciples of all nations, which includes the people whom you know around you as well as the people around the world.
Though I’m still stunned that some people are paid to be trolls by their leaders, I’m even more astonished that Jesus paid the heavy price for all the times that I’ve acted like a troll—both in the past and the troll-like moments I’ll have in the future. He’s done the same for you.
*Linda Buxa is a writer who used that little asterisk as a blatant opportunity to promote her new devotional journal called Visible Faith, a nine-week guide to help you ponder what living a non-troll-like life in Christ looks like.