In the weeks before the U.S. presidential vote, something struck me very odd and disturbing. I saw several of my Facebook friends begin to post very hateful quotes, articles, and links against one of the candidates. Why did I find this odd and disturbing? Well, really only because of one reason: these Facebook friends are professing Christians, so I did not expect so much anger to be expressed through their social media. Now, I do not question their love for Jesus, nor do I question their political stance. I simply was “turned off” by their daily bombardment of “hate posts”. I mean, I am not sure what the goal was. If I was a borderline voter and was their friend on Facebook, then they certainly would have helped me in making a decision; for the other guy.
But, then I began to think about this some more. If you look at many posts people put up (including me), often it is not to make sincere, loving and truthful point. It is to provoke the opposition to anger. I am not just talking about posts concerning politics. I am talking about posts on all kinds of subjects (homemaking vs. working mom, free will vs. predestination, schooling choices, bible versions, music, watching rated R movies, exercising, modesty, going to doctors, etc. etc. etc). And I am not just talking about Facebook. You can add Twitter, My Space, and all the other social networks that exist in today’s world. You can even through in email, for those that still use it.
So what’s my point? Simple. None of the issues I mentioned above are ones that should divide believers of Jesus. If they do, then, I will be as bold to say, in my humble and honest opinion (which is absolutely correct :-)), it is sin. If we are willing to break fellowship over things like this, it demonstrates one thing clearly: our spiritual immaturity. It does not mean we can, or even should, have all the same views on these kinds of things. Put it this way, until heaven, we will not all agree on secondary issues of the faith. We need to get use to this fact.
Am I saying that personal convictions should not be voiced to others? Absolutely not! All have convictions, and we should have them and want to voice them. But our main goal in the church is to use the gifts and talents God gave us to edify the body of Christ. To build it up, not tear it down or divide it. But, often our Facebook & Twitter links and posts, while maybe sharing a good point, are posted in such a way that it does not bring growth to the church, but provokes others from a different point of view to anger. They are posted with an “in your face” mentality. This is what the devil loves about Facebook. Question: how many times have you looked on someone’s Facebook wall just to see if they posted something you disagreed with, and in reaction to what they posted, you posted something with the opposing view just to get a reaction? I see this stuff all the time. When it happens within the walls of the church, it is sad.
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)
Now, some reading this might argue that their posts are not that offensive, and that the other side needs to be less sensitive. Valid point. It might be good for some to delete their Facebook accounts simply because they get upset no matter what you post, and take everything as a personal attack when it is not. But, neither you nor I can force them to do that. If I had a choice on erring on the side of provoking someone with my post or taking white gloves, I would rather err on the side of white gloves. Why? At least two reasons come to mind right now. Ephesians 4:15 says we are to speak the truth in love. Second, provoking someone who has a different point of view will not change their mind, only cause a cyber war.
What about major issues of the Christian faith? Things that divide followers of Jesus and other faiths? Am I saying that we should not post things that proclaim the truths of Christianity and the falsehoods of other faiths? No way! We should never back down from proclaiming the truth. But, it should be done in such a way that builds a bridge to the un-believing world, not a barrier. Remember, every believer in Jesus was at a previous time, a non-believer. Thank God for the gospel!
So, what should we do with other believers of Jesus whom we have had previous wars with on Facebook? Forgive, and seek to reconcile. Why? That’s what Jesus did for you in your war with Him with your sin (Romans 5:10), and that is what He calls you and I to do with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 4:29-32).
So, what are some rules of wisdom I can share with all this?
1. Be willing to dialogue (calmly) with other believers who might share a different point of view on the Christian life than you. Who knows, you might learn something, or you might learn how to pray for a fellow member of the body of Christ. But for sure, you can help each other grow closer to Jesus by challenging each others thinking without causing a war. If needed, set guidelines for when you talk about certain subjects. The goal is Christ-likeness, not gaining victory.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)
2. Do not push to dialogue with someone who is not ready. Not everyone is ready to let their worldview become vulnerable. If you are that person, I urge you try to be willing to lower your barrier down a bit so you can mature in your faith. If our security is in our worldview, we might wake up one day and realize we missed a huge part of fellowship and growth simply due to selfish pride. We need to realize that not everyone is out to attack us. Sometimes, friends in the faith simply like talking together about biblical matters.
3. If you have posted something on your social network in order to provoke or cause anger in another believer. Stop it!
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:26 (ESV)
4. If you have been hurt by a brother or sister by what they posted. Forgive, and let go. Trust me, most of the time you are thinking of it much more than they are. Why suffer because of the misery of what someone said? Who knows, they might be right. And I can guarantee that almost all the time, their post was not done because of you. The devil loves it when we imagine that our fellow believer is an enemy, when he or she is not.
5. Post your convictions with love. Allow criticisms. Think about them. Someone once told me that we should never voice our convictions in case we offend someone. That is ridiculous! No one should live in that kind of prison. Yes, we should be sensitive to others feelings, but that should not keep us from voicing our thoughts. If your goal is to edify and not attack, and it is done in a loving manner, I say go for it. But, be ready for a counter argument. Clear rule: if you can not take a counter argument, then you should not post your convictions. In other words, if you can not take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.
6. Do not reply to things that you know will only end up badly. Just let it go. If you are not mature enough to engage, then don’t. If you see that a discussion is going bad, then politely walk away from it.
Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ – Matthew 9:13 (ESV)
Hope that helps. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media can be such a great tool for the church to proclaim the gospel and edify the church. So, post your convictions with love in order to edify!
“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you post, do it all to the glory of Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (Ron’s Social Media Version) 🙂