When I first heard about email, I waved off the very notion, and didn't bother with it for a couple of years. Now, I... love it? depend upon it? am addicted to it? I'd say it's what the phone used to be, but that's not right at all. The phone required manners, and listening, give and take, a measure of humanity. Email may do these things at times, but too often we get knee jerk, thoughtless rips you wouldn't say face to face. And the sheer desperation and foolhardiness of humanity is exposed, as emails (which we know are forever findable in the virtual reality where there are no secrets) prove the ruin of wayward married and business people.
Beyond the rudimentary rules of email ethics, could there be such a thing as holy email usage? There must be a kind of virtue of hospitality in emailing: we remember tone of voice is guesswork, and so when we say anything that matters, we clarify, we express care, and maybe we forego the email if feelings or relationships are at stake and pick up the phone or visit in person.
Jesus once said "It's not what goes into a person that defiles, but what comes out" (Matthew 15:11) - and I suspect that's how Jesus feels about email. It's not what inadvertently flies into your email box - but what you forward out to others: this is what defiles. Tragically, people now pick up what they know about the world, politics, other people, religion - really anything! - from forwarded emails, with no backing or authority except somebody pressed "forward." The rancor, rage, misinformation, flat out lies and prejudice spewed via malignant emails is a poison that eats away at the soul. Jesus is not pleased. Can what comes out of my email box be edifying? or at least not corrosive?
Quite a few of the "books" in the New Testament were originally letters mailed across a great distance, preserved now for us to read centuries later. Do we ever say anything in an email worth saving?
If I send an email ("what comes out"), I want it to be okay with Jesus - and hence truthful, not hurtful, not disparaging of anybody, not arrogantly ranking me and my ilk as superior to somebody else, never a catalyst for venom, or anything that may cause another person to stumble.
So we think, and maybe offer up a quick prayer before we hit "send." Even email has the potential to be redeemed; even an email might actually prove to be holy.