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If you are a non-confrontational person, then you are probably at your most uncomfortable every 4 years during election season. I can’t say that I am able to empathize with you, because I am not someone who keeps her opinions to herself. However, even I have trouble during election years, and this election year in particular is especially terrible. This year has been a disaster regardless of what side of the political spectrum you sit. It’s just about the only thing on which everyone can agree.
Of course, one result of an election year is a lot of “unfriending” and “unfollowing” on the various social media platforms. We just can’t seem to keep from blasting our opinions all over Facebook and Twitter. We can say anything from behind a keyboard and we don’t have to physically see anyone’s reaction, so it’s less uncomfortable.
So, the short answer to the question, “Do Christians have a responsibility to address every issue on social media?” is NO. Although, when is there ever really a “short” answer?
No, we are not responsible to address every single issue on social media. Not only do I think it isn’t our responsibility, I think that sometimes we shouldn’t address issues on social media. I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with posting or sharing our opinions on major issues, but we need to realize one thing:
We are NEVER going to change someone’s opinion on a major issue through social media.
If you are a Trump supporter, have you ever seen an article or video posted that has made you want to vote for Hillary? And if you’re “with her,” have you ever seen a pro-Trump post that has made you decide that maybe you want to vote for him after all? I would be very surprised if you had, and I would question how strongly you felt about your opinion before it was changed.
So, if you can’t change anyone’s opinion by posting something on social media, then why post it? The truth is, we use social media as a platform to make ourselves heard. Social media is great about giving everyone a voice, but we have to be careful how we use that voice. How do you feel about your Facebook friends or the people you follow on Twitter posting political viewpoints or articles that you disagree with? I don’t know about you, but all that makes me want to do is take them off my feed. You reach people by forming relationships with them, not by blasting your opinions at them from behind the safety of your computer screen.
Now, I would like to make a disclaimer. I am NOT advocating for hiding your faith or beliefs from others. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”
My point is simply this: you need a genuine relationship with someone before you can truly influence the way they think.
I don’t know about you, but I am not in a close relationship with everyone I follow or am friends with on social media. If I post a pro-life article, I need to do it with the understanding that the only people who are going to like it are those who were already pro-life. Everyone else will just roll their eyes at me and move on.
As Christians, we are held to a higher standard of conduct. The world is looking for us to screw up so that they can undermine everything we believe in. As unfair as it seems, we have to be careful about the way we carry ourselves, both in everyday life and online (I feel the need to point out here that I am very bad at this sometimes). It’s probably fair to assume that if you are posting your opinions on every issue that hits the media, then you are probably just turning people off, and as long as you’re fine with that then just go on doing what you do. But I think if we are considering social media our only evangelical platform, we are missing a huge part of the Great Commission.
When Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” he didn’t mean for us to throw our opinions all over Facebook or Twitter and just leave them hanging. If you’re going fishing, you don’t throw out your line and then just leave it there and forget about it. You also don’t scream irrationally at the fish when they don’t bite (or maybe you do, but wouldn’t that just scare them off?). Reaching people for Christ works the same way. We can’t just throw out an opinion on Twitter and then assume our evangelical duty has been taken care of for the day. Sure, maybe you’ve planted a seed, but there’s no way to be certain.
We have to live above reproach. We have to love. We have to open up a dialogue with the people around us.
We have to build relationships and create opportunities to actually talk to people face to face about our beliefs. If we try to do all that through Facebook posts, it’s much more likely that we are just going to turn people off of anything we have to say.
Sometimes our faith and opinions are going to make people angry. That’s a fact we can’t avoid and I’m not advocating that we do. The exclusivity of the gospel inherently invokes anger in those who don’t understand it, but you don’t need to stoke the flames through social media. Our influence lies in our ability to love like Christ, create relationships, and in our ability to show people that love. Those are things that can’t be accurately conveyed online.
If your desire is to spread the gospel and “make disciples of all nations,” then social media alone isn’t going to cut it. It erases the relationship, which is the most important aspect of discipleship.
So, if you want to address political or social issues on social media, by all means address them. Just be cognizant of how you’re coming across. Are you advocating your position with love and understanding, or are you shoving your opinion down people’s throats? Will anyone be reached through your address of this issue? Are you furthering the cause of Christ, or are you turning people off? Is your attitude one of “Well, if they don’t like it they can deal with it,” or “Hmph, they’ll figure out how wrong they are while they’re spending eternity in Hell”? Because if that’s where your heart is, then it might be a good idea to reconsider your intentions and motivations, and you might want to re-think clicking that “share” button.
Some things are better saved for personal conversations.
Image Credit: Unsplash.com
Rachel-Claire Cockrell is a wife, a writer, and a high school English teacher. She is passionate about her students and does her best to exemplify the love of Christ to those kids who may not experience it anywhere else. She and her husband live in Arkansas. Follow her blog at http://rachelclaireunworthy.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook.