I have friends who think it’s impossible, Luddite-leaning folks who think the only holy response to social media is to turn it all off. Many others seem to be without introspection, justifying pretty much every word they say as righteous. I take these next two statements as truisms.
1. Social media can be used for the glory of God and for the advancement of the kingdom.
2. Social media has often been a source of shame and has brought much reproach to the church and to the name of the Savior who shed his blood for that church.
I believe social media has been and can be a great force for good. It is a force for deflating the over-inflated egos of elitists and for shining the light into the dark crevices where evil things take place. If it weren’t for social media, the progress we have made on issues like sexual abuse would not have happened. I know, the progress isn’t much and it isn’t what we would like it to be, but the progress only happened because social media shined the light into the darkness, forced people to confront an ugly issue, and dragged our leaders (many of them kicking and screaming) into the light to face the truth. If social media did not exist, none of us want to think where we would be on this issue.
I get a kick watching those “First Amendment Audit” videos. I support the police and respect their work, but it is undeniable that there is a lot of corruption and a tendency to disrespect basic constitutional rights among some (I don’t know what the percentages are). The prevalence of video cameras and YouTube brought justice to George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and police officers are being much more careful now to respect rights.
On the other hand, social media is a cesspool of depravity. You should see the comments that we delete here. Racism. Vulgarity. Just about every form of wickedness. On a Baptist site! Every accusation the SBC elites make about bloggers and tweeters is true, even if their motives may not always be pure. Those same First Amendment auditors I spoke of are often vile, confrontational, and sometimes ignorant. They provoke fights and are unnecessarily disrespectful.
Social media is like paint. Use it to paint your house, it is good. Pour it over your head, not so great.
Permit me a third truism here.
3. The word of God has every guideline we need operating our social media lives for his glory and the good of the kingdom of God!
In my self-imposed hiatus from blogging (burnout?), I’ve been thinking a lot about whether what I do here honors God and accomplishes kingdom purposes. I have believed for nearly a decade and a half that God had opened a door for me to have a voice in the direction of the SBC, but all too often I found myself angry, frustrated, and embroiled in conflict with others. That isn’t necessarily bad, if those I’m in conflict with are bad people, but it is wishful thinking to believe that every time I have conflict I’m in the right and the other is in sin. Sure, 99% of the time, right?
In my Bible study, I’ve been encountering verses that seem to indicate that the writers of Scripture foresaw the coming of social media and wrote truths that would apply to us. More to the point, social media does not create anything new in us, it just magnifies what is there. It puts our hearts on display for all the world to see.
- You are a self-centered person, but you are able to keep that under wraps. Social media acts like a megaphone that screams “me-me-me” for all the world to hear.
- You have an angry heart, but you hear it. When you get in an argument on Twitter or in the comment stream in a blog, your anger boils over and the Rage Monster comes out of you. It wasn’t Twitter’s fault or Facebook’s, or the blog’s. It was in you. Social media just magnified it.
- If you are argumentative, irritable, ornery – you can often hide these things in real life, but the privacy and impersonal nature of social media lets these rapscallion qualities bubble to the surface and take over your soul.
We need to remind ourselves of what God’s word says and constantly check ourselves according to God’s word.
I’ve been compiling a list of verses I’ve found and I’m going to do a series of posts on this topic. You might have some suggestions for verses, or even a post to add in this vein.
Guideline 1: Remember every time you go on social media that you are an ambassador of Christ and your goal is to glorify him!
I had a kid in my high school boys Sunday School class years ago who would answer every question I asked with a sanctimonious voice and say, “Jesus.” Of course, if asked why we do what we do we are going to say, “For the glory of God and the spread of the Gospel.” We know the right answers. The question is whether the answer in my head is the answer in my heart.
Are you seeking to build your platform and gain fame and recognition? There are lots of chances to make money on social media and even small amounts of money can raise up the greed in our hearts. Sometimes, the desire to prove myself right (or to prove the person who challenges me wrong) becomes the real issue – it becomes about winning arguments as much as about glorifying God. As much as I want to claim my anger is righteous and holy, when my blood begins to boil the truth is that I am seldom acting for the glory of God but for the honor of Dave! The flesh is strong in us unless we willfully seek God and the Spirit produces his fruit in us.
Paul said, in 2 Corinthians 5:20,
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
The fact that I am a Christian is no secret. I represent Christ every time I sit at my keyboard and I need to remember that. When I’m tempted to opine on issues, to trash-talk about this or that, to engage in angry dialog on something, I need to remember that I am not my own, I’ve been bought with a price. I represent Christ and my duty is not to vent my feelings on Facebook or Twitter or here, but to honor the one who shed his blood for me and purchased my soul.
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
That verse comes from a discussion about so-called disputable things and is a bit out-of-context here, but the principle is well established. Everything we do is for the glory of God. I must act for my own glory or honor, but for the honor of Christ and for his glory.
I do a better job of remembering this when I am writing posts than when I’m commenting and someone irritates me!
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17
This verse sums it up. I represent Christ. I cannot do as I please or say what I want. I need to live for Jesus and represent him well with every word I say.
Applying the Principle
1. Write carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully in every word we speak.
I do that with my posts. I will gush out my feelings on an issue, then rewrite a post two or three times, softening it each time. If you think some of my posts are harsh, you ought to see the first draft! I want to speak truth, but in love and righteousness. It takes time. It is in engaging comments that I sometimes fail this. I get irritated and annoyed and pop off. That is not right.
2. Helpful hint. Take some time.
I have sometimes written a post then slept on it and come back later. I rewrote it or trashed it all together. Give yourself some time to cool down – emotions seldom serve God. Our emotions generally are fed by the flesh, not the Spirit. Few things HAVE to be said right now.
3. Be willing to admit you are wrong.
I saw a man I deeply respect apologize to someone I deeply dislike the other day. I completely sided with the one doing the apology on the issue, and many people questioned why he was apologizing. He was RIGHT! He was apologizing for HOW he spoke. He wanted to honor God not just with what he said but with how he said it. This is the way. That is how a man of God acts.
If we are of God, we admit we don’t know everything and are willing to admit when we make mistakes. It is pride that causes us to never admit our mistakes. That isn’t from God.
If you haven’t admitted your errors on a regular basis, you are likely serving your own pride more than the kingdom of God.
4. Look to yourself, not at others.
We are talking about a heart attitude. I can write two articles that appear to others to have an identical spirit. Only in my heart, with the guidance of God’s Spirit, am I aware that I am becoming self-glorying and not Christ-honoring. The heart shifts long before others can tell. This is something I need to gauge in myself. Too often we examine the specks in others’ eyes while ignoring the beams in our own.
I hope to write an article in this series every week or so. Feel free to suggest a verse or even submit a post with a reflection on such a verse.