"I saw it on Facebook." The news about a friend's health condition was fresh and timely. Moments after learning that their condition required surgery, they posted the information on their Facebook page and it spread quickly - and so did the prayers. This is someone I know well and see on a regular basis, but I was receiving the update about their health from someone who lives miles away and rarely sees or talks with our mutual friend. But technology made it possible for the information to be known and for people everywhere to pray and send messages of encouragement and support.
We have been considering in some detail the dangers and pitfalls of social media. The potential for communication that is less than Christ-like through electronic media is significant. Temptations like falsehood, boasting, inappropriate, even ungodly content, and gossip are ever present in the world of electronic communication. But the mediums themselves, the devices with which we use them, and the software that makes them possible are not inherently evil. In fact, like so many resources available to us, they can be used for much good. The example I shared above is just one of the many ways social media can be used as a practical, helpful and godly form of communication.
What would communication that is Christ-like look like via social media? Remember the general categories that define Christ-like communication:
Truth. Social media provides people with the opportunity to share and promote truth in a frugal, practical and broad manner. News, information and perspectives that reflect and respect God's truth can be spread quickly to large numbers of people. Websites, Facebook pages and Twitter posts are being used every day by millions of Christians around the world to proclaim truth-oriented messages about God, mankind, the environment, the future and the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ. The ability to pass this information to so many people is unprecedented. Instead of regularly communicating non-essential and sometimes useless information through social media, communicate the good news of what God has done for you in Jesus Christ and what that means for you every day. Jesus is the truth and he was encoded - communicated - in creation, in person and in the written words of scripture. We have the opportunity to communicate Jesus through these powerful technological tools. Make the most of the opportunity.
Truth in love. But as we proclaim the truth, we must do so in a spirit of love, not condemnation. Too often, Christians implicitly or explicitly judge those who hold opposing views or who are different than us. While we are called to proclaim the truth, we are also called to reach out in love to those who reject the truth, to love our enemies and to live our lives in such a way that they are drawn to the truth. While we should be firm, we shouldn't be harsh. While we should be unwavering, we shouldn't be obnoxious. While we should not compromise the truth, we should not be forceful in our proclamation. There are very few examples of Jesus being harsh in his communication with others and that communication was directed at the Jewish religious leaders who were leading people astray by their teaching and by example. But his interaction with lost sinners was straightforward yet loving, declarative yet kind. Our communication via social media should be seasoned with grace so as to draw people to the God who made them and loves them. The apostle Paul said it best: "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:5-6).
Building others up. Using social media as a means of encouraging and building others up can be a bit complex. Email, Facebook and other media are useful tools we can use to respond to the needs of others in a timely fashion, but they also can result in shallow words that don't help others at all. A quick, less than careful attempt at encouragement can do more damage than good. Be cautious in your use of social media to address the serious problems and suffering of others. That kind of communication can sound hollow and can be easily reduced to meaningless clichés. And if you promise via a text message or post to pray for someone in need, be sure to do so. It is easy to make a promise and fail to keep it and the ease of these forms of communication can exacerbate the problem. If you do choose to edify someone through these means, be thoughtful, considerate and appropriate in relationship to the specific need of the person or persons you are attempting to encourage. Consider keeping it private and personal - it may be that the individual does not want details of their problems elaborated on in such a public fashion. Choose your words carefully and say only that which you are certain will benefit them in mind and spirit (Colossians 3:8).
Selflessness and humility. Due to the public nature of social media, the possibility of self-promotion is great. Before you deliver an email, post a comment or send a text, evaluate your words and the overall spirit of your communication. Is it about you or is it focused on others? Are you communicating in order to get attention, sympathy or favors or are you communicating concern, compassion and help for others? Use social media as a means to consider others, before considering yourself (Philippians 2:3-4).
Honoring to God. Ultimately, all that we communicate through spoken, written or digitized words should be for the glory of God. Photos, information, personal stories, stories and anecdotes about others, expressions of wonder and amazement and requests for prayer should all be good, pure, lovely and honoring to God (Philippians 4:8). If it doesn't reflect or promote God's glory, don't post it, send it or link to it. Yet, think of all the wonderful things we can communicate via social media that is praiseworthy and will draw people's attention to God's goodness, holiness and glory. If everything we do should be for the glory of God, then social media is a wonderful platform from which we can promote his glory. There is so much bad news, so many negative narratives, too much sordid evil communicated in the information age. As Christians, we should lead the way in expressing the good that God is doing through his people in the world today.
That's some of what I have been thinking about in regards to social media. I encourage you to do more thinking and share your thoughts and ideas with me, if you would like, and by all means (including social media), communicate the living word, Jesus our Lord and Savior for his glory, our good and for the sake of those who need to know him.