Social websites are an amazing thing. What began in the nineties as forums for geeks to congregate has blossomed into a mainstream phenomenon where parents, children, teachers, grandparents, and entire masses of people can reach out to each other and connect more easily than ever before. With services like Digg, Twitter, and Facebook, we can share pictures, bookmarks, links, hopes, fears, ideas, and so much more with our new online communities.
Unfortunately, people actually see these things we post and share – but we forget that those things reflect on us as Christians. See, along with this great ability to share ideas and knowledge across the globe comes a false sense of anonymity. We aren’t talking directly to someone. We don’t see how our words and our comments affect others, so we grow bold in the things we share or approve of online.
For Christians, one of the more problematic pieces of the social web has been the Facebook “Like” button. If you are unfamiliar with this, the “Like” button simply allows you to add your approval to a status update, a link, a group, or an organization. It is exactly what it looks like – a thumb’s up. Here are some items I’ve seen Christians “Like.” (Some of these are mildly censored for posting here.)
- “If you’re going to burn my American flag, kindly wrap yourself in it first!” (Facebook Group)
- “Sh****t, look who’s online…LOG OUT LOG OUT LOG OUT…”Hey whats up?”…d**n.” (Status)
- “I’m not a b**ch, i just have a low tollerence for bulls**t.” (Status)
- “YOU came to OUR country. YOU learn OUR language!” (Facebook Group)
This list could go on and on. Do we forget that the things we post online reflect our hearts? What we write and what we “Like” are things we might as well be saying, and the scriptures have much to say about what proceeds from our mouths. Do we forget verses like Matthew 12:36 when we go online?
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
What about Matthew 5:22?
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, You fool! will be liable to the hell of fire.
How about Ephesians 4:29?
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Finally, consider James 3:
Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness…It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so…
We could continue with scriptures about our Christian attitudes, about patience and longsuffering with others, about not letting the conflicts and struggles of this world interfere with out service to Christ, about meditating only on good and pure things, about how Christ should be reflected in every area of our conduct. We know these verses; we just fail to apply them online. This, therefore is my challenge to you; this is my entreaty; this is my plea – look at how you conduct yourself online, and ask yourself if anyone would even know you were a Christian based upon that conduct, your updates, and your “Likes.”
I want to close out with a couple of thoughts. First, I Timothy 5:22 warns us against being hasty to “lay hands” upon another, lest we be caught up in their sinful actions or attitudes. Should this not apply to the links and individuals we show support to online? Second, my wife once asked me what a person on Facebook did for a living. I answered that he was a preacher, and she was shocked by that, for she had seen no evidence of that side of him based on his online activity. Would some of our Facebook friends be equally surprised that we are Christians? They may well know our political views. They may know the music, books, and television shows we like. They may know how we feel about this celebrity or that. They may know much about our dirty laundry, but do they see Christ living in us?
There is so much potential to do good online. There are so many opportunities to positively affect others, to share God’s word, to encourage and exhort one another. Let’s not squander those opportunities. Let’s honestly assess ourselves and ask, “What would Jesus ‘Like?'”