Monday, May 18, 2020

A Pastoral Concern: The Christian Witness and Social Media

One of the blessings of social media is that it gives everyone who chooses to use it an outlet for sharing the events in their life, their opinions, and entertaining or educational video clips.  We can amuse ourselves with it for hours--which may not always be the best use of our time.  Still, if you'd rather sift through Facebook or Instagram posts for 90 minutes instead of watching a movie, who am I to say that either is bad?

What is bad is that we forget ourselves very quickly when we post items on social media.  I don't think I have to convince anyone that our filters usually shut off when we post.  It is easy to be bold and brash as we put our opinions on an impersonal screen.  People write things that they would never say to someone's face.  Apparently, not communicating with people in person robs us of some humanity ourselves. 

For the most part, I don't take very seriously what people post on social media.  I probably should take it more seriously than I do.  Others take these words very seriously.  I suppose if you are the one on the receiving end of an insult, you would too.  Some respond with equal venom.  Then, rather than turn the other cheek at an insult, the race is on to see who can insult the other person worse.  You can say all you want about mainstream media dividing Americans, but we do a pretty good job of it ourselves.

All of this leads into the issue I do take seriously.  You who post online: Do you not know that you are still a Christian when you do these things?  Do you not know that you bear the name of Christ and represent him to the world?  And when you post your vicious opinions against other people (usually against politicians), or obscenities, or boast about drunken behavior for all the world to see, what conclusions do you make people draw about you?  If you have not given serious consideration to this before, please do so now.

Imagine this situation.  You are enraged about some proposal or policy that has been enacted.  Your dander is up, and other people need to know it.  So, you go to your preferred social media outlet and write, "Politician Jones is a &*@(#%$ and thinks like a &*@(#%$ and anyone who supports this person is equally a &*@(#%$!!!"  Now, how about inviting Politician Jones to church in your next post?  Or the supporters of Politician Jones?  Would they really be interested in joining you to hear about Jesus after you have represented him that way?  Are you giving them reason to wonder why on earth they should explore the Christian faith if that is how Christians act?

Perhaps I sound like the Facebook police.  Not really.  I still hold to the theory not to take too seriously what people put online.  (It is one of the reasons I barely ever comment online.)  But once comments and posts become vicious and personal, I can't help but cringe.  (Note: I will never call you out online; although I am fearful that my silence may be interpreted by some as "the pastor does not care if I am crude and insulting.")

If you want to express your dissent online, there are surely respectful ways of doing this.  But please consider if you are flaunting a wicked attitude or sinful words for the world to see.  The world might be entertained by that, but surely God's people hold themselves to a higher standard than the world.  If your witness before the world is laced with mockery or disrespect, don't be surprised that the world hates the Church all the more.  It will be because we have given them reason to.

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