“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger...,” (James 1:19).
Most Christians have either read or heard this verse. I’ve sat through sermons and Bible study lessons in which the verse was preached. I’ve even preached and taught it myself a few times. Typically, I’ve heard and used this verse as it relates to interpersonal relationships. And while this verse is important in discussions about interpersonal relationships, looking at this verse as it relates to social media is equally important.
We live in a fast-paced society in which most people have access to the internet via a mobile device. Social media has given a platform to every voice. We can Facebook, Tweet, Instagram, even Snap all day, every day. We have 24-hour access to share our thoughts on everything from politics and religion to movie reviews and our favorite celebrities. We can create new posts, comment on posts, screenshot posts, and much, much more. Our potential to “go viral” increases with each post. And it seems the more controversial, outlandish, or divisive the posts, the quicker they go viral. What’s a Christian woman’s responsibility in today’s world where she has access to the internet via telephones and tablets in the palm of our hands?
We must recognize that James 1:19 applies to our interactions on social media as much as it pertains to our face-to-face interactions. Being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger is vital to social media when we realize dozens, if not hundreds, even thousands of people can read the posts we share and tweet on social media. Just because we can post our every thought doesn’t mean we should.
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What to post?
We need to ask ourselves if our post is it true (factual), helpful, and edifying. If our post doesn’t meet these three criteria, we probably shouldn’t post it. No, we don’t need to be quick to type and share our opinions. Further, we need to be extra careful about sharing propaganda that divides instead of unifying the body of Christ. And sometimes, we need to respond by praying for the poster when we see something derogatory, racist, sexist, or offensive.
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When to respond? And how?
Most of us are guilty of sharing things on social media that we shouldn’t share. I always try to remember that Jesus has access to all our social media accounts. Is He pleased with what we’re posting, sharing, and retweeting? Probably not. Instead of being quick to respond to offensive posts, we need to tread carefully. Before posting, we need to do three things: pause, use wisdom, and hear from the Holy Spirit.
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Just because we see something on social media that angers, upsets, or offends us doesn’t mean we need to respond to it. Before we type a reply, we need to pause.
Pausing allows us time to cool down, check our hearts, and seek the Lord.
- Not everything we see on social media requires a response from us.
- Not everything on social media is for us.
Unfortunately, as consumers of social media content, many of us have a habit of taking everything we see as a personal attack when it isn’t.
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"Pausing before commenting on someone’s post exercises wisdom and provides protection."
There have been many times I’ve posted something on social media that isn’t directed to any one person or group of people. My posts may be random thoughts or something the Holy Spirit is speaking directly to me that I feel may bless or benefit other people. And so, I post it. My post isn’t directed at anyone, but someone could read it and feel personally offended. They may comment back to me on my post from a personal perspective when I don’t know them or their situation. If I’m not discerning, I could start defending myself, taking both myself and the reader down a path we don’t need to travel.
Pausing before commenting on someone’s post exercises wisdom and provides protection. Why get your emotions and feelings involved in something in which they don’t need to be involved? Doing so is a waste of time for you as the reader and for the person who posted the comment.
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2. Use Wisdom
Just because you have access to the internet and can respond to an offensive post doesn’t mean you need to. Exercising self-control is essential in today’s respond now, apologize later society.
Before commenting on any post, ask yourself if your response will:
- Glorify God and
- Edify the reader.
If you can’t answer yes to both questions, you may want to rethink your post. Whether in our homes, in the marketplace, or on social media, Christians are a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are epistles being read by people, even on social media. Thus, God should be glorified in everything we post on social media.
"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone." (2 Corinthians 3:2)
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"Seeking to glorify the Lord before posting is wisdom."
- Seeking to glorify the Lord before posting is wisdom.
- Asking the Lord if our post is edifying to the reader is wisdom.
I’ve been guilty of posting from the flesh onto social media, and God wasn’t pleased with those posts. I typically go back and delete them, but in today’s world, a screenshot makes that deleted post live perpetually. Again, wisdom helps us post responsibly to social media by asking if our posts glorify God and edify His church. If it doesn’t, we don’t need to post.
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3. Hear from the Holy Spirit
One day, I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a post in which the person I followed was engaged in an argument with an atheist. The atheist didn’t back down, and they both were quite rude to one another.
As their argument escalated, I wondered why the person I followed didn’t just stop the conversation. I wondered why she allowed the debate to continue. And then I saw it – pride. The person I followed wasn’t witnessing for Christ to the atheist from a place of love. She was arguing with the atheist from a position of hostility, anger, and pride. I was embarrassed for her as well as for the Lord. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I read some of the tweets to my husband, and I said, “And the church wonders why unbelievers are running away from Jesus Christ.”
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"Hearing from the Holy Spirit is imperative for Christians who use social media."
The young lady wasn’t tweeting from the heart or mind of God. She didn't hear from the Holy Spirit. She was posting from her flesh, and she wasn’t producing any righteous fruit. Hearing from the Holy Spirit is imperative for Christians who use social media. Again, just because you can post your thoughts doesn’t mean you should. We need to hear from the Holy Spirit before clicking Share or Tweet.
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When to disconnect?
Sometimes we need to disconnect. We need to log off Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media platform we’re using. We may need to disconnect from some of the people we’re following. I had to unfollow people on Facebook and Twitter because their posts vexed my spirit. There’s nothing wrong with disconnecting. It’s merely a way to be “...slow to speak.”
As we engage with people over social media, it’s essential that we remember James 1:19. We never want to lose our witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to be light to the world, whether face-to-face or on social media. Let’s remember that Jesus has access to our social media accounts and conduct ourselves accordingly.
Aretha Grant serves her local church as a bible teacher and elder. She loves writing and is the author of Overcomer: 25 Keys to Walking Victoriously. Aretha resides in Hagerstown, MD with her husband and two youngest children. You can read Aretha’s blog at www.arethagrant.com.
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Originally published Monday, 15 October 2018.