How to send an email (the Biblical way)

Late one balmy evening, King David was strolling across his roof terrace when, in the distance, he spotted a neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, bathing on her rooftop. Shoving to one side the inconvenient fact that she was already married (to a soldier called Uriah), David sent for her and they slept together. As a result, she became pregnant and suddenly David found himself in the hottest of waters.

Initially, David thought he could cover it up and hoped that Uriah would quickly return from the battlefield (where he’d been fighting), sleep with his wife and hey presto, sudden pregnancy explained.

But it wasn’t to be.

Uriah came home from battle and out of (misplaced) loyalty skipped a great marital reunion and inexplicably chose instead to sleep outside the palace, along with his fellow soldiers.

Now King David was really in trouble, so he wrote a letter to Joab, the commander of the army which said, ‘put Uriah at the front of the battle, so that he’ll be killed’.

And then 2 Samuel 11:14 records that David actually gave the death sentence letter to Uriah himself, to carry to Joab.

Uriah unknowingly carried his own death warrant to his commander in chief. If only Uriah had known the explosive contents of that letter.

I was reading this story recently, grimly smiling, having been the recipient of a few ‘hand grenade’ style letters myself.

You might be familiar with the type.

Person A is disgruntled or has misunderstood your actions/words and so instead of having a quiet word, fires off an emotional missive and copies everyone (and their mother) into the cc line.

When it arrives in your inbox, it lands with the force of an incendiary device. As you realise its contents are not going to be a pleasant read, you glance at the ‘copied to’ line to see just how many others have been included. And then you read and you re-read, hoping you’ve misunderstood the tone.

But if you receive a message like this, is there a Biblical way to respond?

Don’t use email for your dirty work

King David had all sorts of message options at his disposal. Instead of summoning a messenger or sending a trusted aide, he chose instead to write a letter condemning a man to death and then gave it to the man in question, to carry himself. To me, that seems like a unusually cruel way to send a message. Uriah, battlefield hero and patriot to the king travels all the way to the front, never knowing he’s carrying his own death warrant.

For me, the rule is simple, never do your ‘dirty work’, using a third party ‘messenger’ like email or text. I try (personally) to stick to a rule; never get into difficult conversations or any kind of backwards/forwards argument on email/text. Email was designed to convey simple messages to people outside our immediate reach. It was never intended to be a weapon of mass destruction.

Don’t include others

King David could have sent a message direct to Joab but instead, he chose to include Uriah in his twisted plan. Why? Scripture doesn’t say but to me, that seems like a pretty cheap shot.

Ever been tempted to do the same? Abuse the ‘cc’ (or worse…the ‘bcc’) line in an email?

I’ll admit, I’ve done it! I’ve felt annoyed and fired off work emails and copied in the person’s boss.

And I’ve had it done to me.

On one occasion, when a simple chat could have dealt with a misunderstanding, instead I was sent an email copying in not only my boss but 3 additional leaders, thus escalating a minor misunderstanding into a Category 3 hurricane.

Simple lesson for me, having been both the sender and the recipient, follow the gentle rule in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over”.

A first step should always be to try and deal with the issue privately between the two of you. Don’t abuse the cc line.

Have a chat

King David had really screwed everything up. He now had a pregnant mistress and a murdered soldier on his hands. 2 Samuel says that God was ‘displeased with him’ (to say the least!) and sent Nathan the prophet to have a word.

Nathan arrived in person to deliver a devastating word of correction to King David. Nathan too could have sent a messenger, but he went himself to confront David.

Some things are simply best said, when they’re said in person, because when we have a face to face conversation, we can assess a person’s reaction, we can correct any misunderstandings and we also have the opportunity (like it says in Matthew 18) to ‘win them over’.

I love this simple verse in Hebrews 12: ‘Try to live at peace with everyone! Live a clean life. If you don’t, you will never see the Lord. (CEV).’

Hitting ‘send’ when you’re hurt, angry or irritated often feels like the justifiable thing to do.

Sending a message instead of having a chat often feels like the easier option (especially if you dislike confrontation).

Copying others in unnecessarily also feels like a convenient way to ‘make a point’.

But they’re also great ways to escalate things unnecessarily and create hurt and division.

Instead, let the Lord fight your battles. Don’t be tempted to do it on email.