I always go back and forth before I post things about social media.
For one thing, I’m incredibly active on social media. So, as I said in my last post, when I write about logs and specks, I have enough kindling in my eye to build a raging fire (really gross imagery; I’m sorry about that). For another thing, social media is not real life; it’s a host of people bypassing in-person intimacy for the convenience of a screen. But in another sense, social media is definitely real life, because it’s powered by real people saying real words (Luke 6:45) that they will really be held accountable for (Matthew 12:36). And hearts are definitely bruised by these exchanges.
My heart is burdened by the way we do social media. Even though it’s just social media.
“It’s just social media” means that, yes, you can just log off after you’ve had your fun. But all of the hurt and hubris that swirled around logs off with us. Especially when it’s time for our tribe to go to war.
Tribalism can be so easily confused with the Christian community. After all, we are the family of faith! But family feuds among different ideological tribes of Christianity tend to operate as though they’re not happening among brothers and sisters but among the in-crowd and the outcast.
When you log onto social media and see your favorite tribe picking up pitchforks over the latest cause for offense… pause before you join in. Consider that, as rewarding as it feels to be part of a mob, your goal should be to build up — not one up — your brothers and sisters in the Lord.
We do so much damage to one another under the guise of contending for the faith. We’re impatient, unkind, and boastful. We are arrogant. We are rude. We insist on our own way — rejoice in the (often perceived) wrongdoings of others because it gives us a chance to puff ourselves up. We don’t care about hurting hearts or the body counts our words leave behind.
We do all of the things love does not do. 1 Corinthians 13 has become so common to us that we sweep it aside as trite in our interaction with brothers and sisters in Christ. We treat siblings more like outcasts from the family of faith when we disagree with them. And it’s not even always about huge, glaring areas of doctrinal faithfulness, but about areas of orthopraxy that, while incredibly important, are not ultimately salvific.
Love seems like an unpopular concept for Christians to talk about today. When they do, they are sometimes accused of being bleeding-hearts, people for whom love, and not the truth, is the highest virtue.
But love is the highest law: love of God and love of our brethren (Matthew 22:36-40). This love isn’t always running through a field of daisies and making flower crowns. Love keeps God’s commandments and proclaims God’s truth, even when it’s not popular; even when it doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy.
But it isn’t always taking an adversarial stance either.
You see, it seems like we all want to be Jesus flipping over tables in the temple and purging the church with a whip. We all want to shrug our shoulders and say, “Love hurts sometimes, deal with it” and have the shades magically slide down from the top of the screen. We want that tough love because it helps us mask indignation that is not always righteous (as Jesus’s was), but is often self-serving and, dare I say, platform building.
Again, don’t feel yourself being bullied here. I am preaching to myself as well. I’ve written comments, published posts, and retweeted things out of faux tough love that was actually a self-serving moment. I’ve had darkness in my heart online. I’ve wanted to be table-flipping Jesus without his motive.
But not enough of us are willing to emulate the foot-washing Jesus; the patient teaching; the laying down of our lives.
Let’s play a game: When hurt people are searching for identity, dignity, and significance, are they more like —
- The Pharisees trying to trap Jesus (and therefore cruising for a tongue-lashing)
- The woman at the well, feeling alienated from the people of God (and therefore shown incomparable kindness)
We have options besides always pulling the “brood of vipers” card (although it belongs in the deck). Jesus had nuance. He didn’t adjust the truth according to his audience, but he showed tremendous social awareness and empathy. He didn’t lie to the woman at the well. But even the fact that he took the time to speak to her showed incredible kindness.
He took the time to call Zacchaeus down from the tree. He answered the rich young ruler’s questions. He pulled Peter up when he sank in the sea. He calmed the waves for his faithless disciples. He never compromised truth — not once. But he also never lost sight of the will of his Father.
Be like Jesus. All of his dimensions and interactions can teach us something. Like the fact that there are times for a tender heart and times for flipping tables.
No. You’re not he perfectly capable Savior of the World. But the Holy Spirit resides in you. He can enable us to use even social media for the glory of God.
I’m not making these proclamations as a voice from on high. My social media forays bring out just as much pettiness in me as I see in others. If we’re talking logs and specks, I’m walking around with a California redwood lodged in my eye. Here are three things I would love to see less of (and more of) on social media.