Social Media and The Christian

Social media is a beast, and no I am not saying it is the beast of Revelation, but it is a complicated and powerful tool that let loose can wreak havoc or can be used as a lion for good and the Gospel of Christ.  But as Christians, we must learn to think about it correctly.

How should Christians think about social media? More importantly, what should it look like for a Christian to positively engage with and use this powerful tool?  Theologically, I think it is good to think about Social Media as being in the realm of speech and witness.  Really anything the Bible says about how we should speak and what our lives should witness too applies to social media.

It is my opinion that there is an epidemic of grumbling and complaining among Christians engaged in Social media.  Grumbling and complaining is really pandemic to all of social media, but this should not be the case for Christians.  We see this in blogs written about what some pastor did that is so unbelievable, open letters to all Christians saying they should be more sensitive to the writer’s particular issues, articles written about how backward general church culture is compared to the author’s all knowing view point, Christians posting and reposting slamming indictments against the church from secular writers saying they generally agree, and blog posts that are just angry.  We live in a complaining culture.  Our default is to complain and grumble about everything in life.  We see this most readily when we meet somebody new, or start up a new conversation at work.  It generally starts with a complaint about something, “Man, traffic sure was bad today.” “Did you get that email from the boss? He is a real pain in the neck.” “It is so hot outside, I wish it was cooler.” “It is so cold in here, why do we run the AC so much?”  You get the point.  But this is not the way Christians are called to act.

In Exodus 16 we see Israel grumble against Moses and the leaders of Israel.  They say in Exodus 16:3 “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  The Israelites are basically saying it was better to be in slavery in Egypt than to try to follow the Lord to the promise land.  When we know even in Egypt they were complaining about their slavery!  But Moses makes a very important statement in Exodus 16:8 “Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”  Moses is telling the people you grumbling and complaining is not caused by my leadership but rather by your discontent with God and what He is doing.  And the same generally applies to the multitudinous complaints and grumbles we see among Christians engaging in social media.  They are discontent with God and what He is doing in the world.

Philippians 2:14-16 gives a good guideline for Christians engaging in social media, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”  This means stop complaining.  Stop tearing down the church.  Stop making ugly public statements about your pastor or other Christians.  Stop complaining about society in general.  Paul here is instructing us to live contrary to our culture and instead hold forth the Gospel!

Here is more guidance from Ephesians 4:29-32 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander but put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”

And still more Ephesians 5:19-21 says, “address[] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

As Christians we should be those that give thanks, those that build up, those that are kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, and pointing the outside world to Christ.  Does your social media presence reflect these ideals?

Jude gives us fair warning about what type of person you may be if you feel like you just have to complain, you just have to get in that last jabbing word.  Jude speaks of people that have gained admission to the church and yet they are out for their own gain.  Jude 16 “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.”  Jude 1:18-19 tells us that the apostles warned of people like these in the last days saying, “‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who cause division, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”  And in Contrast, Jude tells us in Jude 1:21-23 to “keep ourselves in the love of God” and to “have mercy on those who doubt” as well as to try and snatch some out of the fire to salvation, showing mercy to some and hating things stained by the flesh.

If you have been guilty of spewing forth endless blogs, articles, statuses, and tweets that fit into any of the negative categories above, I urge you to repent.  If not you may be in grave danger.  As Christians we are to shine as lights in the world for the Gospel and complaining about and tearing down the very people and places that make up God’s kingdom on the earth right now is anti-Christian.  Let me urge you to take a moment and consider you social media persona.  Does it reflect what you believe about Christ? 

Finally, here is a list of things I believe are healthy to do and not do as a Christian engaging in Social Media.  These are in no particular order and certainly not exhaustive, but I hope you find them helpful.

Things not to do:
1. Don’t engage in fruitless debate.  James 4:1-4 is a good passage to meditate on here.  Generally we just want to prove ourselves right, or get under the skin of another purpose under the veiled guise of standing for Jesus.  There is a place for healthy debate, but it is generally not on FB in front of the whole world.  Maybe give that friend a call that you have a disagreement with.

2. Don’t repost news articles just to be the first to get the news out there.  This is another way really just to build ourselves up.  If we are honest, most of us don’t really want others to know about things that are happening (they will find out in time on their own) most of us just want to build ourselves up by posting the breaking news.  The funny thing here is that when we repost news articles we have become part of the sensationalized news machine that we don’t like anyway!  If you aren’t the employee of a news agency, then don’t worry about trying to get the word out first.

3. Don’t have a sky is falling mentality, commenting on every news story seeing the worst possible implications; rather trust the Lord!  We have all seen this.  Politicians decide to make some law that is not in accord with Christian ethics and people describe it as the beginning of the end of the world.  How about we trust God.  He told us the world was going to degenerate morally, this is no surprise, so lets get on to life trusting God.  Instead of seeing the sky as falling, see it as in the hands of God.  He is moving this world forward for his purposes and will one day bring it to a culmination.

4. Don’t use profane, crass, or general unhealthy language.  This should be obvious, but a good reminder is helpful.

5. Don’t complain.  If you have a problem with your church, pastor, friend, relative, job,  coworker, neighbor, why don’t you set up a time to meet with them and talk about it.  This will not only be more Biblical but will be more affective.  Like Exodus 16, maybe your real complaint is with God and not someone else.

6. Don’t be someone different on social media than in real life.  The Bible calls us to live lives of integrity.  That means that every area of your life is equally submitted to the Gospel.  Don’t create an alter ego of some sort within your social media circles that does not accurately reflect who you are.

7. Don’t be a bleeding heart.  Don’t pour out your sob story just to illicit a caring response from your friends.  Rather have a small group of Christian friends that are regularly engaged in your life.  Share your issues and problems there.

8. Don’t veil your complaints in sarcasm. It is popular today to veil our complaints in sarcasm.  We think if we make it funny it isn’t complaining.  But let’s be honest, most sarcasm is meant to bite.  It is a veiled way of complaining that doesn’t seem so bad.

Things to do:
1.  Teach the truths of the Gospel.  Social Media is a huge and influential forum; use it to teach the Gospel.  This doesn’t have to be annoying or over the top, but instead of writing one more blog complaining about the latest thing, teach truth.  Colossians 4:3-6 says, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let you speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  Think about the worldwide audience you are writing and speaking to and make the best use of time by teaching the Gospel.

2. Encourage others.  Send friends messages that let them know you are thinking about them and praying for them.

3. Give thanks.  Let people know the things you are thankful for and give God the glory.

4. Engage in healthy polemics.  There is a healthy way to write against things that you think are wrong.  Learn to argue and not complain.  It is possible to make a case from truth against untruth that is healthy.

5. Present yourself exactly as you are in real life.  I mentioned the inverse of this above, but it is very important.  You will not have a faithful witness if people meet you in real life and see that your “Christian” social media persona is a fraud.

6. Ask yourself, is this needed and helpful.  Sometimes you just have to put the keyboard down.  Some comments though not bad are just not helpful.  Learn to discern what is appropriate and not appropriate.

6. Remember, the whole world sees what you post.  Don’t post anything that you don’t want the WHOLE WORLD to see.  Oh and Jesus sees it too.  Oh and it is recorded forever.  You would be amazed at how many of my youth kids at church friend me on FB and then post very unbecoming media.

Finally, Colossians 3:16 urges us that “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
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