One of the strange phenomena of this generation is the rise of social media. If a celebrity eats a hamburger, we need infinite updates on how it tasted and went down.Social media has also led to a refreshing amount of social accountability; but, itâ€™s also led to an era of cyber bullying and hyper-critique. In many ways, the world is reeling under its newfound power.
And thatâ€™s exactly why Christians need to develop a more sophisticated theology of social media. And Iâ€™m the first person to admit Iâ€™ve made mistakes. I have more platforms to voice my opinion than ever beforeâ€”from blogs, to Twitter, to Facebookâ€”not to mention millions of other websites begging for my feedback. Recently, I tweeted a joke that was questionable. When I saw it show up on my timeline a few hours later, I was immediately struck with a convicting question from the Holy Spirit: â€œDid that really represent me well?â€
The truth was: I was an idiot. Ephesians 4:29 bids me to â€œsay only what is helpful for building others up.â€
So after deleting the post with regret, I was reminded of Proverbs 10:19: â€œWhen words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.â€ And when you think about the scary amount of words we post each day, it really makes me pause.
For guys like me who make a living by sharing my thoughts, this is a scary truth. And it doesnâ€™t exactly help that I like to mix edgy comedy with ministry. People naturally give comedians a bit more leeway than pastorsâ€”so many Christians donâ€™t know what to do with me. (â€œDo I write him a letter? Or do I laugh?â€)And when we live in an era of hyper-accountability and critique, itâ€™s becoming a painful time to be a leader in any arena.
But itâ€™s also true Iâ€™m a total idiot on a lot of subjects. And as a good friend, I lovingly remind you that YOU are too! (And if we were face-to-face, Iâ€™d be giving you a big sympathetic look right now while breathing in deeply through wide nostrils.)
You see, social media is constantly tempting us to extrovert our inner opinions. However, we fail to realize, just because wecan comment/tweet/post/blog, doesnâ€™t mean we should. Some of us have an acute case of verbal diarrhea that afflicts us every time we see a mobile phone or computer.
But keep in mind: If youâ€™re a Christian, you donâ€™t have the right to simply share whatever you want anymore; after all, â€œYou are not your own. You were bought with a priceâ€ (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We are now ambassadors of Christ (Gal. 2:20). And when we surrender our lives to Christ, every little tweet surrenders, too! Or I could put it this way: Itâ€™s time to let your Facebook page get saved.
Besides, thereâ€™s nothing worse than watching a bunch of people puke 38 political comments down a Facebook post (as if theyâ€™re actually influencing each other or exemplifying the God of joy and peace).
Donâ€™t get me wrong: Itâ€™s totally OK to have strong opinions about politics and theology. But allow me to raise the bar when it comes to social media by giving four suggestions.
To put this another way: Think of these Bible-inspired suggestions as Imodium AD for our verbal diarrhea. (And I learned these after having many accidents.)
Tip # (1). Avoid Confrontations Through Writing:
As a general rule, I encourage people to avoid communicating on emotional topics through writing. Donâ€™t get me wrong: Itâ€™s OK to journal your thoughts for the purpose of clarity. But very few of us are good enough to confront through writing. And hereâ€™s why:
Scholars say that 64-92% of all communication is non-verbal. Itâ€™s vocal tones, eyebrows and body language that speak volumes. When youâ€™re looking a person in the face, it often changes the way we talk. It gives us instant feedback to know if our message is too hard or soft. It also helps people see the love that is driving our confrontation. And if love isnâ€™t your motive â€¦ then you probably shouldnâ€™t be saying anything. (Once again: sympathetic look/flared nostrils.)
In my experience, written critiques are usually interpreted in the most hostile way imaginable. And although you didnâ€™t use LARGE CAPS to make your point, most people will tend to read critiques as though you did.
Iâ€™m embarrassed to say that, at one time, I used to write all sorts of long confrontation letters as if I was the modern embodiment of the Apostle Paul. And if that was you â€¦ Iâ€™m soooooo sorry! (A single tear is falling from my left eye as I look off wistfully.) And after receiving hundreds of such letters confrontingme, God changed my mind about letters.
Besides, people spend way too much time spewing and stewing over false assumptions when it comes to letters. Thatâ€™s partly why the Bible commands us to communicate quickly when weâ€™re frustrated with people (Mt.5:24; Heb.12:14-15).
But I am convinced true love will always prefer face-to-face when possible. And even when time or distance is unavoidable, a loving person will, at least, â€œbelieve the bestâ€ until a more functional form of communication can be used (1 Cor. 13:2-5).
Tip #(2) Donâ€™t Confront People You Donâ€™t Know.
In my book Pharisectomy, I talk about how our bodies are actually designed to reject truth from people we donâ€™t know.
On issues of deep significance, itâ€™s incredibly rare any of us will allow a virtual stranger to influence us. So why even bother to throw out snarky posts on Facebook? Your flesh may feel good, but, nine times out of 10, it will only reinforce their opposing opinion (true or not).
Tip #(3). If you Must Confront, itâ€™s UnBiblical to Start Out in a Public Forum.
If you havenâ€™t figured it out: Facebook and Twitter is the new version of the Jerry Springer show. You now have the ability to embarrass yourself 24 hours a day without Jerry Springer present.
But if youâ€™re a believer and you have something to say to someone, the Bible is super clear.
A.) It must be done â€œgentlyâ€ and with humility (Gal.6:1-5).
B.) You need to go to the source of the problem first before you involve others (Mt. 18:15)â€”while assuming the best (1 Cor. 13:7). Only after all of this has been exhausted should a person involve others (Mt. 18:16).
Finally: C.) â€œgo publicâ€ with the grievance (v.17). Even then, the audience shouldnâ€™t be a non-Christian audience (1 Cor.6:1). Besides â€œwisdom from heavenâ€ (as opposed to hell)is â€œpeace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincereâ€ (James 3:17).
There was one occasion where I couldnâ€™t resist posting my opinion on Facebook. But after doing so, I had a sad revelation: I had virtually killed my ability to influence that person. I may be right â€¦ but I was â€œdead-right.â€ I might as well have used Jerry Springerâ€™s platform to rip them to shreds.
But, in a sick world that feeds off of public spectacles, wouldnâ€™t it be refreshing to start a radical new trend of going straight to the person?
Tip #(4). Clothe yourselves with Humility:
Over the last 20 years, itâ€™s amazing how many times Iâ€™ve changed my opinions. Iâ€™ve converted to and from Calvinism a dozen times. (My poor church in Wisconsin was so confused.) And politically, Iâ€™ve been the same way.
For example, up until a year ago, I knew virtually nothing about the Marriage Amendment up for ballot in Minnesota this fall. At first I thought: â€œGreat! Hereâ€™s a perfect opportunity for Christians to look stupid trying to legislate morality.â€
But as I dug deeper, many of the amendment advocates werenâ€™t even Christians. They were sociologists and experts on child rights. Ironically, I even met a lesbian who was passionately going to â€œvote yesâ€ in favor of an amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. When I asked her why, she said: â€œFirst off, Iâ€™m not going to throw child rights under the bus for â€˜adult wantsâ€™â€”even if itâ€™s MY wants. And secondly, this has huge implications on First Amendment rights and religious speech. And if Minnesota becomes the first state in U.S. history to sue people for their beliefs instead of behaviors, then we ALL lose!â€
At first I was stunned. I was like: â€œWhat? Child rights? â€¦ First Amendment?! State rights?â€ Honestly, I had no clue how this amendment had anything to do with protecting those things. Of course, the thought never occurred to me that MAYBE thereâ€™s actually valid intellectual reasons why 31 out of 31 states have voted in favor of marriage amendments. But hereâ€™s the point (before some of you get all riled up with your opinions):
In the end, I realized, I didnâ€™t even know the beginning of this issue. And I STILL might be completely uninformed. Iâ€™ve been wrong so many times on so many issues that, just maybe, I might be wrong again. But Iâ€™m certainly not going to learn anything if Iâ€™m ripping on all the people that God is sending to enlighten me. We canâ€™t antagonize and influence at the same timeâ€”nor can we be antagonized and be influenced at the same time. So, posting snarky facebook posts is tantamount to eating an ignorance pill.
Thatâ€™s why the Apostle Paul tells us to â€œClothe yourselves with humilityâ€ (Col. 3:12). And â€œAbove all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmonyâ€ (3:14).
This doesnâ€™t mean we will always agree. But it does mean that, even when we donâ€™t agree, we can still walk away with a basic sense of respect and human dignity.
Thatâ€™s why, if you follow these four tips, youâ€™ll finally get sick of that dirty Facebook feelingâ€”and especially during an election year, a time when people lose track of dignity and truth, doesnâ€™t that sound appealing?
Writer: Peter Haas, Sourced at Church Leaders.com,