How are you representing Jesus on social media?
Now, there is a lot of good that can be done through social media. There’s a lot of damage that can be done, too. Especially when it comes to politics, social media is fraught with temptations and dangers for the disciple of Jesus.
There have been times I have found myself appalled and embarrassed at how some of us Christians have behaved online. Our persona online is indeed a part our lives that needs to be worthy of the calling of following Jesus. In the same way as the bombastic “Christian” protestors who hold up huge signs that say, “God hates fags,” Christians who display a hateful attitude online are killing their witness for Jesus.
Let’s face it: disciples of Jesus need a lot of wisdom to navigate political conversations and political posts in ways that honor Him.
It takes maturity, self-control, and savvy, much like Jesus had when He was asked a political question (Mark 12:15-17), to be able to engage in this kind of often-polarizing discourse online. If you are not ready to follow Jesus into those tumultuous waters with wisdom and grace, then please just stick to posting cute little cat pictures!
The way social media works doesn’t give us much help. Social media algorithms and news outlet silos continue to entrench us in our views and opinions (which we often mistake as “convictions”) so that we often find ourselves unable to have a meaningful conversation with someone else with grace and poise if we disagree.
So, is nonengagement better?
Actually, that’s often what our inability to disagree gracefully gets us. It often creates an environment where we settle for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy—resigning ourselves to keeping opinions to ourselves because we don’t know how to talk through disagreements or engage in issues in a way that is becoming of Christ. This nonengagement can be a terrible option too, as we sweep important issues under the rug and act like everything is okay when it is not.
At our church, we are trying to get practice at learning how to fight for the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3)—even when we don’t agree! This means there are going to be times we accidentally say things the wrong way, get emotional, and have to check our rising anger. But open, honest engagement is far preferable for disciples of Jesus than just going to your separate corners or blocking each other on Facebook—which certainly isn’t keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace!
Even though nonengagement isn’t a good option, a strategic fast from social media might not be a bad option once in a while.
Some of us might need to fast from social media altogether for a time because we are not yet at a place of spiritual maturity to be able to use it for good. Some of us might need to be cut off from our “internet courage” that we get when we’re behind the safety of a screen and instead take the time to engage with someone for real.
If the prospect of fasting from social media for an entire week causes you distress and angst, that could be a sign to you that social media has a hold on you in a way that is not pleasing to God. It might be like the disciple who comes to me and says that they keep looking at porn on their phone every week, but they aren’t willing to get rid of their phone or cut off access. Why? Well, they’re addicted. We need to be aware of the destruction that unchecked social media misuse can cause to the body of Christ. If you misuse social media or have a social media addiction, it’s time to come before the Lord and repent.
I want to challenge you to find some brothers and sisters around you (especially who don’t necessarily agree with you on political issues) and ask them humbly and seriously if your social media feed is becoming of Christ.
If we are going to represent Jesus and His kingdom well online, then we need to be clear in our minds and hearts of where our true allegiance lies. I believe that if we truly give our full allegiance to Jesus and His kingdom, the political gaps and opinions between us as disciples would shrink down to very manageable distances that could be worked through in open, honest engagement. Getting our allegiances right will give us the ability to truly be a light to the world and a city on a hill.
(For more from Jon, check out jonsherwood.com.)