If your social feed is like mine, it looks like people are losing their minds. Christians too.
As our nation becomes more polarized my feed has morphed from sweet pictures of children, pets and adventuresome vacations to something unrecognizable. It’s caustic, it’s political, it’s angry and it’s even downright bizarre.
I do realize that most Christians would say the reason they post what they is not only to respond to the misinformation of others, but also to make a difference. And I believe them.
People really do want to make a difference. And when someone posts something you find objectionable or patently untrue, you answer them intending to change their mind. Yet what we want to happen is rarely what actually happens. What we accomplish is more like adding one more steaming chunk to the pile of manure that is social discourse.
Please know, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have an opinion about key issues in our country and culture. You’re bound to have an opinion. I just want Christians to seriously evaluate what they are doing. At some point we have to pause long enough to ask ourselves some questions,
“Will this post actually accomplish my goal?”
1. Remember who you represent.
I wish Christians would recognize the direct connection unbelievers make between what individual Christians say and do and what they believe all of Christianity is. Why wouldn’t they? To an unbeliever the best way to know what Christianity is, is to watch how individual Christians behave and to listen to what individual Christians say.
In Colossians 4:5-6 the apostle Paul highlights the importance of this point:
5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Every time you post something online:
- Unchurched people are watching.
- Your unbelieving friends and family are watching.
- And they think you represent the whole of Christianity, whether you think you do or not.
To an unbeliever the best way to know what Christianity is, is to watch how individual Christians behave and to listen to what individual Christians say.
2. Choose to be different.
When it comes to conflict each of us carries in one hand a bucket of water and in the other a bucket of gasoline. We get to choose which one we dump on the internet. The problem is, many Christians aren’t providing an alternative to the outrage online, they are fueling it.
In light of the sheer amount of divisive hatred present online it really shouldn’t be difficult for Christians to promote a redemptive alternative. It only takes a little bit of light to illuminate the darkness.
- You can refuse to respond to a disagreeable post.
- You can refuse to be nasty.
- You can refuse to use harsh tones and snarky comments.
Yet it is so tempting to answer harshness with harshness isn’t it? When we do, we’re perpetuating division not changing it.
In Romans 12:21 Paul gives us this relevant directive:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
As a rule, when I am particularly disturbed by a comment or a post, I wait 24 hours to think about it and pray about it. You will never regret the wisdom of pausing to ask if you are about to add to the rank pile of divisiveness or if you are promoting what is good, redemptive and gracious.
It only takes a little bit of light to illuminate the darkness.
3. Be particular about what you re-post.
We’re presented so much false or twisted news on a daily basis that it is difficult to tell what the real story is. This fact alone should make us wary of the information that comes our way. It should also make us especially hesitant to pass on information before checking it out.
Proverbs 13:5 is a great description of what happens when we hand off untruth:
The righteous hate what is false,
but the wicked make themselves a stench
and bring shame on themselves.
Scripture says passing on what is false makes you stink and brings you shame. Yet other scriptures say those who bring good and truthful news are beautiful. The answer to the question, “Should I pass this on?” is another question, “How do you want to smell?”
If it is truly in your heart to make change happen there are probably more effective ways to see that happen than a post on social media. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How often has your mind been changed because of someone’s online rant?
- How many opposition talking points would it take to change your opinion on major political issues?
- How many well worded cynical jabs would it take to make you vote differently?
- How many belittling names would someone have to call you before you changed your beliefs about, abortion, immigration, gun control, poverty or racial justice?
How did you answer those questions? You were probably thinking, well - none of those scenarios has or would ever change my mind. I assure you the answer is the same for the people your last post was aimed at.
If what you are posting isn’t making a difference, then what you are actually accomplishing is just blowing off steam. I get it, we all reach a boiling point, but such a public forum probably isn’t the best place to vent your private frustrations.
There you have it. Four ways to be different online. Keep your eyes out for Part 2 where I’ll talk about a strategy that is bound to make a difference on your social feed.