Written by Dawn Rutan
A couple items I’ve encountered recently have focused my attention on how we use social media. The first was this cautionary article by Thom Rainer: http://thomrainer.com/2014/08/04/seven-warnings-church-leaders-use-social-media/ and the second was last Sunday’s sermon on church unity from 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. It’s made me reconsider some of the things I see on Facebook and particularly whether I should respond to someone else’s post or not. Here are some of the difficulties that I see:
Christians are by no means united in their beliefs, not just about basic theology, but about politics and all kinds of social issues. Is Facebook the best place to “discuss” such issues, by which I mean, is it the best place to state your personal opinion on a controversial issue and seek popular approval?
In addition, non-Christians (and many Christians) often don’t have a solid grasp of the differences between churches, denominations, parachurch organizations, or heretical teachers. As a result, a wide variety of people get lumped together. For some Franklin Graham may appear to be in the same boat with Creflo Dollar. Whether you agree with a nationally known person or not, taking sides either way may give false impressions to those who don’t understand the differences. A brief comment on social media is not adequate to clarify the underlying issues.
It’s tempting at times to share some celebrity’s public comment and criticize them for being too judgmental, but it appears to me that doing so only increases the judgmentalism being passed around. For example, you may not like their stance on homosexuality, but is it necessary to be publicly critical of them in order to state your own opinion? Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV). Is it a good witness to publicly criticize fellow believers whether you agree with them or not?
- “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
- “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
- “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
The book of Proverbs is also full of wisdom about how we should use our words. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is disturbed by the frequency with which we publicly tear people down rather than building them up and seeking their good. This isn’t anything new, but social media has made it a lot more visible to a lot more people. But on the plus side, we also have a lot more opportunities to encourage one another, pray for one another, share the Good News, and spur one another on to love and good deeds.
I would suggest that believers should endeavor to maximize the benefits of social media rather than contributing to the divisive issues that are becoming our “trademark” in the world. May the world say of us, “See how they love one another!”