Titus 3:2 tells us “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” We should not speak evil of anyone (especially Christians). And we should avoid quarreling at all costs. Does this characterize your social media habits?
At times, social media is edifying and fun. Other times, however, social media is insufferable. Myself, I’m online less these days for many reasons, one is because of all the negativity and divisive comments I see from fellow Christians about Christian leaders and Christian organizations. It’s discouraging and robs my energy. Lots of the cutting comments can be avoided simply if we think twice before posting. Even more, lots of cutting comments can be avoided if we took seriously what the Bible says about our words.
Below are six questions to ask before you post about other Christians on social media.
In particular, I have in mind posting about Christian leaders and Christian organizations.
1. Am I 100% correct?
Have you examined both sides objectively? Are you sure you’re telling the truth?
Proverbs 6:16-19 lists things that the Lord hates, things that are an abomination to him. On the list, we see a “lying tongue” and “a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:19).
Ask yourself: Am I sowing discord online with my social media post?
This should be obvious, but since it’s not: don’t post something on social media — especially if it’s negative in tone — about a Christian leader or Christian organization if it’s not true.
2. Am I quoting someone out of context?
Ah, this one.
As many have said, “The best lies have an element of truth in them.”
You’ll see this with websites and social media feeds dedicated to exposing Christian leader and organizations. They’ll write, “We contacted so and so, and they said (blank).” Part of the statement they later post is correct. But the so and so they contacted actually had a lot more to say, and that part they didn’t post. And that changes the context entirely. To summarize: they quote others out of context.
Don’t just look for a quote that will only make your side look better. Don’t quote people and organizations out of context to garner more attention for yourself, and then use Christian langue like “speak the truth in love” to make it seem like you’re defending the faith. If you’re not ready to post the entire truth, it’s not time to post.
3. Should I be the one to say this?
So you have something to say.
Question: what credentials, life experiences, and personal credibility have you established to make you the right person to say it?
I made this mistake once. Years ago, I wrote an article about someone who I thought was flirting with the prosperity gospel. In an effort to provide clarity, I wrote something negative about him. I published the piece and didn’t think much about it. Of course, I was happy to see it quickly get lots of traffic. The information in the article was correct and, to my knowledge, I don’t believe I quoted anyone out of context.
A couple of days later, though, a trusted Christian friend told me that it wasn’t my place to say what I said, and he challenged me to take it down. I did, reluctantly.
Looking back on it, he was right.
While I may have had some helpful things to say, it simply wasn’t my place to say them.
We must speak out when necessary. I agree. But as a general rule, I think the polemical, hard truths about Christian leaders and organization should be done by pastors and elders. The rest of us? We should probably listen more than we speak.
4. Am I adding value to the conversation?
I don’t post negative things on social media because it’s not my place. I’m also too slow. When some sort of negative and noteworthy thing happens in evangelicalism, I see 20+ Christian leaders saying helpful things about it by the time I open my twitter feed. Everything that needs to be said, often, is already said.
If you have something to say, ask yourself: how am I going to add value to this conversation?
Those who add value — and not just say what everyone else is saying — often prove to be most helpful. If you cannot uniquely contribute to the conversation, it might be best to not contribute at all.
5. Have I prayed for them?
For every one time you criticize someone, pray for them 10 times.
It’s fine to disagree with someone. But it’s not okay to not love them.
Pray for your brothers and sisters, especially those whom you are most tempted to dislike.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”
6. What would Jesus think of my post?
This one will sound cheesy to some. I don’t regret saying it. Remember: Jesus Christ knows your motives entirely, knows everything you post online and will hold you accountable for every word you say.
There are other questions we can ask: Am I saying this is good faith? Am I saying this with a good conscience? Am I saying this to glorify God? Am I saying this to build others up?
I’m not saying we should never speak up about issues we are passionate about on social media. When it comes to wicked things like abortion, racism, and crime, I’m always grateful to see others posting helpful things on such issues.
And when it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ, there are still things we can speak up about and expose. Yes, yes, and yes. But I think we’d do a better job with our posts if we first remember that we’re on the same team. Even more, we’d do a better job if we’d remember that not every thought we have belongs on social media. Just because something is true doesn’t mean you should tweet it. Some thoughts are best saved for private conversations over a meal.
Think about these questions before you post on social media. We can truly cause a lot of damage with our words. To be sure, we should not always remain silent about everything. But when we do tweet, it should be to help, not to hurt. As Tim Keller says, “Like a surgeon, true friends only cut you in order to heal you.”
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