Do you remember life before the internet? Sometimes it can be difficult to remember how we shopped, traveled, monitored our world, communicated or even dated before the information super highway.
Near the end of the 20th century, our lives were completely changed by the internet revolution. The 21st century brought revolution to the world-wide web itself, the social media revolution. Social media did not just change the way in which we use the internet, but social media has been cited as a catalyst for literal, political revolt. During the recent riots in Egypt, one Cairo activist tweeted: “We used Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate and YouTube to tell the world.” The fact that people need relationship and want connection is the driving force behind almost all technology and internet applications today.
What is the believer’s responsibility toward social media? How should we view this new frontier? Are we called to be Cretans to whom “nothing is pure” and avoid social media completely? (Titus 1:15) Or should we employ the Corinthian approach: embrace with both arms, but no brain (2Corinthians 11:3,4). Maybe you prefer the Ephesian approach where our interactions within social media indicate that we have “lost our first love”(Revelation 2:4). The biblical approach is that employed by the Apostle Paul who saw not only the danger but also the great potential of new technology. It was him who maximized the relatively new social media of his day – the epistle – in order to write the majority of the New Testament.
The bottom line is, does Scripture address the issue of social media? The answer is a resounding, yes! Here are eight guiding principles for the Christian and social media:
Since social media is the newest form of human communication and relationship building, we must engage. The believer must use every opportunity to be salt and light. Note the example of Paul in Acts 17:17. Paul reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentiles in the marketplace every day. Paul made his voice heard wherever possible and the implication for the believer is clear: use social media to spread the Good News.
2. Know what you are revealing
The ideas and information that we exchange via social media reveal our heart and what we cherish most. Your public online activity defines who you are perceived to be by others. Matthew 12:34b, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” and Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Furthermore, is not just your public online activities that define who you are, but your secret online activities – though only known by you and God – show who you really are. 1 Corinthians 4:5 states that the Lord, “will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.”
3. Be sensitive to possible ministry
Christian communication, especially in public, is always to be driven by the possibility of present or future ministry. How was your last Facebook post connected to the gospel–or was it? Colossians 4:5, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”
4. Avoid foolish speech
It is wise to use social media to build relationships with fellow believers and loved ones, but does the world really need to know that you just sneezed or whether or not you put skim or two percent on your cereal? Remember Proverbs 17:28? “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.”
5. Be ready for greater accountability
Teaching or giving your opinion on the Christian faith or Scripture through social media will immediately invite stricter scrutiny from Christ, the Bible and your church. Therefore, think carefully about the information that you share via social media, remember who you represent and that the teaching you post on your blog or Facebook profile can and should be subject to critique by your pastor and church. Scripture makes it clear that those who teach the Bible will be held to a higher standard of judgment. James 3:1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”
6. Beware of the illusion of credibility
Social media gives the illusion of credibility to anyone with a computer, an internet connection and the ability to write more than a thousand words. In reality however, social media reveals more people to be heretics and rebels than Bible experts and godly followers of Christ. Note 2Peter 2:1, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies…”
7. Reject the cult of personality
Social media tempts us all with the cult of personality or the ability to create an idealized rock star persona which we get to live out before the world through the images, ideas and information that we send. This approach can make us all the focus of our own little reality shows (brought to you by Facebook!). Does your social profile indicate who you worship? How many pictures of yourself do you have on your profile? 2Timothy 3:2 warns us about this phenomenon, telling us that “in the last days . . . men will be lovers of self . . .”
8. Stop hiding behind the screen
What you say via social media should be consistent with what you are willing to say in person where there is real opportunity for discipleship and reconciliation. Are you a lion on the keyboard, but a lamb when looking a person in the eye? Your speech should be consistent in both situations. Even the Apostle Paul noted a perceived inconsistency between his instruction “in person” and his instruction via the social media of that day. He took the time to refute that false accusation in 2 Corinthians 10:8-11, “For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.’ Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons we are also in deed when present.”
We must always remember that social media is not a “holy loophole” that is somehow exempt from biblical principles. We here at Sound Church are thankful to God for providing us with one more tool in order to carry out the Great Commission. If you would like to listen to a deeper explanation of the believer’s responsibility to social media, listen to Pastor Jarrett’s sermon on the Theology of Social Media.