“Do you have Facebook?” a co-worker asked me one day, years ago. I hadn’t heard of Facebook, but was familiar with social media having had a Myspace account. Soon after, Facebook took the world by storm and life as we knew it would never be the same. At first, Facebook became the main hub to share stories and pictures of your family and reconnect with old friends while making new ones. In a sense, it brought out the best in people.
And then it brought out the worst.
Instead of opening my account with excitement, filled with anticipation about what is new with my friends and family, now it is a hub for everyone to share harsh comments, spewing condemnation and hate. Other social media platforms have similar effects.
Unfortunately, Christians are just as guilty of spreading hate. The result is a discredit to our witness of the good news of the gospel of Christ. Is there anything we can do to stop this? I think so. Here are 10 important things Christians ought to be doing when they log-on to their social media accounts:
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Most Christians acknowledge that to be Christlike, we need to exemplify the fruits of the spirit as listed in Scripture: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Ephesians 5:22-23). But these fruits need time to grow. This means Christians should seek to place themselves in situations where they can cultivate this fruit in their lives. Social media is no exception. It is where people from all walks of life, from different cultural backgrounds, faiths and worldviews all show up in the same space. These conditions are a recipe for disagreement. However, just because we disagree does not mean we still cannot love each other. The next time you disagree with someone, or someone posts a derogatory comment, simply reply with this:
“I hadn’t considered that before, let me think about that.” This gives you a chance to pause without saying something you will regret later, and treat the other person with grace rather than disdain. Are you looking to mature in your faith? Then consider the other person’s point of view. They may just be right.
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Think before you tweet.
Social media has added fuel to the fire of instant gratification. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have allowed us to post whatever we are thinking and feeling without any thought to how it will affect others. And still, words have power. Is it any wonder God Himself used words to speak the world into existence? Before you hit the “Tweet” or “post” button, think to yourself “will this hurt or harm someone else? Perhaps someone I care about?” If it will do more harm than good, don’t post it. People have lost careers over what they post—it’s not worth it.
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Keep private things private.
Social media is a great place to share current events, as well as your triumphs and struggles. But social media has seemed to blur the lines between what should be kept private and what should be made public. We don’t need to know what your last fight with your husband was about or view a photo of your gruesome gash requiring 32 stitches. A simple post saying you have been hurt or struggling in your marriage is sufficient. Don’t shy away from being your true self, but do consider what matters have the right to be kept private.
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Follow the Ephesians 4:29 rule.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Consider the words that are forming in your thought life when you post on social media. Are they words used to encourage and build up or tear down? While we are also called to speak the truth in love to help others grow spiritually, that is for those within your fellowship.
When you have walked with someone, learned their story, and you have realized they have fallen into sin, then you can approach them in love and prayer to tell them what they are doing is wrong. If you don’t know them well, it is best to refrain. So often we fail to know someone’s entire story. When we strive to know others completely, only then can we speak into their lives and participate in their growth. Simply wagging a finger at someone’s missteps does nothing to help them in the long run except for allowing bitterness and resentment to build in their hearts.
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Do not condemn.
Notice I didn’t say, “don’t judge.” Judgment can actually be beneficial in the life of a Christian as it allows us to not only speak the truth in love to others, but also to identify sin that may not be apparent to them. When others accept that judgment and use it to rid themselves of sin and repent, they grow in their maturity. Condemnation, however, is different. It attacks people’s character, distorting who they are in Christ. Scripture is clear: “there is no condemnation under Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
All of our sin is covered by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice. It is one thing to lament over the weight of sin. It is quite another to live in the shackles of shame and lack of self-worth. While it is important to point out when a sinful behavior will pull others down, it is not necessary to make someone feel stupid or unworthy because they view the world differently. Social media is not the place to make others feel worthless. We ought instead to build people up and remind them of their value in Christ.
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Don't sweat the small stuff.
Just because an article or comment appears in your feed that you disagree with doesn’t mean you have to respond to all of it. If you feel you have to respond to every contradictory thought, ask yourself why you have to do that in the first place. More than likely, your need to blurt out what you deem necessary has more to do with you and the issues in your own soul than it does with the actual comment. If, after analyzing and healing the issues of your heart, you feel you need to respond, do so in alignment with Scripture: “full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).
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When you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
This is an old adage I heard many times as a kid. But the meaning behind it is one to live by, even today. Although there is nothing wrong with being assertive and speaking up for yourself, sometimes it is not worth the fight to engage in an argument that won’t yield anything but dissension and the possible “unfriend-ing” of someone. If you don’t like someone’s posts, but you still want to keep them as a friend, use the Facebook features to block or unfollow someone. You can still keep their Facebook friendship but block their negativity from plugging up your feed.
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Sounds simple, but how many of us leave our words in God’s hands, beseeching Him to fill our hearts (and ultimately our mouths) with the words of Jesus rather than words of the flesh? Before you open that social media app, pray this: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace on social media today. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.” You’ll be amazed at how the holy spirit alters your perspective to see others as God sees them—as allies and family rather than enemies of the gospel.
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Take a break.
If you find prolonged social media exposure is changing your attitude in a negative way, initiate a social media fast. A fast will act as the power button on a computer—allowing us to reset and reboot so we can clear our minds of the social media clutter and start again. If social media is poisoning your soul rather than feeding it, it might be time to take a break, or, if you are daring enough, disable your accounts permanently.
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Above all, love.
Scripture tells us “the greatest of these is love.” When all else fails, love others. While it is sometimes true that speaking the truth is the most loving thing to do in a social media situation, we will never regret approaching others in love. Because the fact that you made people feel loved will be what others remember most about you in your life.
When Satan uses social media to divide, we can use it to unite. Pray and ask God for his perspective. When you see others as God sees them, your life will change—including your use of social media.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
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Originally published Friday, 30 August 2019.