Social media is an amazing gift, and I for one take full advantage of it. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am one that can be found commenting on Facebook far more than the average person. I enjoy the conversations, and the chance to connect with people I would not normally connect with. Instead of making my friendships shallower, as some claim, Facebook has expanded my friendships and added a depth that may not have already existed. I have also made friends with people from my church and neighborhood that I might not have made before, and even have friends around the country and world with people I have never met face to face. These are people who I love, and would warmly welcome into my home if they ever passed through Kansas City.
There is one portion of social media, though, that greatly greaves my heart. Sadly, it is also something that I see every single day. Something that I think does a disservice to the Gospel message, and the Kingdom of God
Each day, as I log onto my account, I see multiple examples of harsh, mean spirited posts directed at others. Most of the time these are directed at groupings of non-believers, or other Christians which hold views much different than the original poster. Many times these posts could be filed in the realm of political ideology, but I have seen a vast array of subjects being used in this way, from parenting, to social issues, to theological issues.
As I read these posts, I do not necessarily disagree with the poster. Many times in fact, the people I see on my friends list I agree with 100%, and if we met over lunch we would discuss the topic in detail, while giving high fives and performing chest bumps. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and am excited to see them passionate about important things. Many times, I also believe that theologically they are on the right side of the understanding.
The portion that bothers me, though, is that Facebook is not having coffee with friends. Facebook is not sharing information during a small group. Facebook is open, and public, and the entire world can see.
When I see a post praying for God to come quickly and purge the Liberal scum from the earth, I know that not only conservatives are reading this.
When I read that evil queers are taking over the world, there is a good chance that homosexuals are reading it.
When I see a post that declares that anyone who agrees with Obama is an idiot, I think of what the person who voted for Obama is thinking.
These types of posts fill my news feed on a daily bases, and many times come from sweet, loving, Godly people. People I know would never walk up to a gay couple and tell them that they hope they are purged and sent to Hell soon. People who are great friends with members of a different political party.
These posts, and the attitude that is behind them, is doing more than just creating Facebook arguments. It is having the opposite impact on the world, than the impact we are supposed to have. It is harming the churches Gospel witness and building barriers in people’s lives, between them and the Gospel.
A False Gospel
This barrier is first being placed by the fact that to all observable evidence to the non-believer, the Gospel we preach is not a Gospel of love and grace, but instead we are preaching a gospel against sin. These posts work as a vehicle to try to pile shame upon those who we feel are not living correctly. Many times non-Christians who we feel are not living under the direction of the Holy Spirit and Biblical teaching. Although we would never say this, we are working to Christianize non-believers, all while ignoring their eternal soul. When the conversation does blow-up and anger is already invading the conversation we might lay out a Gospel backhand for good measure. Maybe.
Like Pharisees of old, we are trying to make sure that the outside of others is glistening while, while the inside still contains the bones of a dead man.
A Further Offense
The second barrier that is placed by these types of posts, is that we are building up an extra offense to the Gospel message before it is ever proclaimed. Mean spirited, attacking posts, simply put anger in the hearts of the unbeliever towards the Gospel message. I have run across many, many homosexuals through my life who can quote Deuteronomy 21:18-21, or 22:13-21 all while never having heard the Gospel.
Buy attacking, with great maliciousness their particular sin, we have only created a group who is further removed from the Gospel because they are creating a defense for their sin, before ever hearing what the solution to sin is. They see Christians as people who are in attack mode, with their eyes square on their target.
We have helped them close their eyes and hearts to the Gospel, before we ever got around to sharing it (assuming that we ever make it that far). We have also decreased the odds of anyone else being able to share with them as well.
We know from 1 Peter 3:15 that we as Christians must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”, but for most non-believers, they see no hope. In fact, the only difference they see between us and them, is a set of rules and regulations.
While being the social media, Biblical instruction manuals to the world we are in fact, inadvertently, preaching a false Gospel. One of works.
We need to move away from mean-spirited comments and posts, and to be quite honest, maybe take a break from some of the controversial posts that cause fighting on the pages of social media. When we do feel the need (or are lead) to post on a volatile subject such as abortion, or homosexuality, or politics we need to do so from a position of calm, not allowing our emotions to get involved. We need to temper our comments with love, and grace, just as we would talk to someone from that camp face to face.
We need to let our speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, not a huge heaping spoonful of salt with a dash of grace.
Social media is an amazing gift, and one that we ought to enjoy. The connections that can be made through it, and the contacts that can be kept, is on a level never seen before in history. As a tool, if used well, we can spread the love of Christ and His Gospel in a way previous generations could only dream about.
Let us stop using this tool to drive people away from the cross. Let us not use it to create an image of the church, and Gospel message that is contrary to the truth. Let us not use it to attack sinners of a different flavor from the safety of our computers.
Instead, let us redeem this tool for the Glory of God and His purposes.
J. W. Willard