This week, last week, and nearly every day since midway through 2015, I’ve observed a progressive and polarizing social media war between Christians, non-Christians, liberals, conservatives, men, women, black people, white people, young people, old people, Republicans, Democrats, Americans, non-Americans, and probably dozens of other groups of people.
Just two days ago, I was scrolling through Facebook (a habit I try daily not to succumb to, though of which I remain guilty), and I saw someone post a comparison between our former First Lady, Michelle Obama, and the current First Lady, Melania Trump. What was shocking and caused me to unfollow this person and close my laptop was that Melania Trump was completely naked, and this person who shared it was a professing Christian.
Christians, in no universe is this kind of public expression of opinion like Jesus.
This article is not about who in government is right or wrong or good or bad— for even Jesus himself asked, "Why do you call me good? No one is good--except God alone” (Mark 10:18). No, this article is to plead with Christians— I’m begging you— to consider how you’re received by the world based on what you say and on how you express your opinions.
Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword
Social media-- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.-- create a global connection between people, near and far, that gives you a peak into everyone's life whom you're connected with. People we've only met once (or never met in person at all) get to see our most intimate moments with a spouse, our most trying moments during hard times, and our most controversial opinions at our own discretion. Our use of social media platforms allows us to express ourselves and share our convictions with a wide range of people with the click of one button. When each share, post, or comment is created in conjunction with Scripture, we are able to create a presence on the Internet of different, holy, convicted, Biblical Christianity-- and this is what we can strive to do! Even apart from the explicit use of scripture, our “social behavior” online can create an atmosphere of love, hope, and difference, or it can be one of polarizing expression of opinions and emotions, most of which drive half of the population far away from us.
It's time for a bit of family talk, for whoever holds to a Christian standard. I see the political world infecting the unity of Christians and creating an obvious division. In order to defend and protect political opinions, I see an infestation of emotional language, disrespectful tone of voice (or written tone, i.e. using all caps, speaking down to someone, or posting abrasive comments about one figure or another) used to freely and intensely express personal stances and political viewpoints. I see the otherwise helpful tool of social media being used to divide people, and I see this division occurring outside and within the church at astronomical proportions. Political elections, especially one that could drastically alter the state of a whole nation, affect the emotions of many, Christians included. There are many reasonable people deeply involved in politics, respectable Christians that speak on their countries behalf and work in international relations. The issue here is not with the involvement in the political world, but with the way that the political world can affect the attitude, behavior, language, or general conduct of a follower of Jesus. With a tool that could be used to unify and encourage, many have expressed hatred, anger, and slanderous comments.
With the extension of our voices through social media, we are no longer in a world where "posting a status" is any different than saying something with your mouth. Texting a friend can be just as effective for relaying information as calling them, and spending an afternoon Skyping or Facetiming your family may be easier and more practical than spending time together in person. In a day and age that the worldwide web is in everyone's pockets, the extension of our voices throughout every facet of social media must be realized.
The way we write every Facebook status, take every Instagram picture, Snap every Chat, Hashtag every Tweet, post any form of communication-- whether video, picture, written word, audio file, gif, graphic, or otherwise-- should bring glory to God.
I lament that this is not the case.
Some helpful questions to ask yourself before posting anything on any Internet-connected platform:
Six Considerations for post-Post Satisfaction
1. Does what I'm posting use offensive, disrespectful, or belittling language?
2. Might what I'm saying cause people to question the standards of Jesus, based on knowing that I'm a Christian and am willing to speak or conduct myself in this way?
3. Is the way I'm speaking gracious, or is it driven by extreme annoyance or unfiltered emotion?
4. Does what I'm sharing have the potential to cause factions within the church?
5. If Jesus was my only friend on Facebook, would I be too ashamed to share this?
6. Would Jesus “like” this video/photo/quote/article I’m sharing, or would he delete me as his friend?
What does the Bible have to say?
Here are some scriptures to keep in mind before sharing anything on the Internet. Often times, especially in emotionally compromising situations, I find it's easier not to share anything at all. Perhaps what we need is less likes, shares, and comments, and more grace, love, and zeal to be truly holy and set apart.
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." Colossians 4:6
"Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." Proverbs 17:28
"Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble." Proverbs 21:23
"Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." Proverbs 17:27
"Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us." Titus 2:7-8
Remember, politics doesn't have to be a bad thing, but expressing convictions in a Godly way must be intentional. Remember to "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27), especially on the Internet, where all the world sees.