I found myself frustrated and disappointed as I read through my Twitter feed Sunday night. As I scrolled through, I saw high profile SBC leaders taking swipes at one another over social media. Some of the swipes were quite direct. Some of them were a bit more passive aggressive. None of it edified the church or glorified the Lord Jesus Christ.
I recognize the irony inherent in a blog post “calling out” others for their attacks on one another over social media. But I think this needs to be said, even if those I witnessed attacking one another never read this post. The reality is that Christians behaving badly on social media is not limited to those leaders. We’re all prone to it. It’s one of the dangers of social media that we all must constantly guard against. So I’m writing this to us more than I’m writing it to them.
There is something strange that happens when we get behind a smart phone or computer screen that emboldens us to say things we would likely not say if we were sitting in front of the person to whom we are talking. The worst part is that these emboldened conversations typically happen in a very public venue like a Facebook post, tweet, or blog comments section.
I’ve been using social media for a long time. I used Yahoo and AOL instant messanger as a teenager. I had a Myspace account that probably still exists out there somewhere. I remember setting up my Facebook account as soon as I got my college email address because back then Facebook wasn’t open to 13 year olds and grandmas. As you can imagine, I’ve made my share of mistakes and bad judgments on social media. I still do sometimes, but I try to be more careful now.
There’s one thing I’ve noticed. It’s that I’ve never had to apologize for a tweet not sent or a Facebook comment not posted. I have, though, had to apologize on numerous occasions for not bridling my keyboard. I’ve hurt people because I didn’t adequately consider the consequences of my words before posting. I’ve poured gasoline on the fire of disagreements because I was determined to come up with a witty response that would bite the person on the other side of the screen. I’m not proud of those times. But deleting my post or a particular comment can’t take back what I said. I can only apologize and move on, accepting that there are real relationship consequences when we fail to be more measured in what we type.
I’m in no position to tell others what they can or cannot tweet or post on Facebook. Sometimes the line is blurry and we don’t know we’ve crossed it until after the damage has been done. But I do know that James 3 was written primarily with those who teach in mind. We use our tongues for great good as we proclaim the message of Jesus. We also sometimes use our tongues (or keyboards) in a way that stains the body of Christ. We will stumble in many ways, but we should remember that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness, even (especially?) for our tweets and Facebook posts.