It seems that we have arrived at a time and place where social media makes it the time to revise the famous quote about character from H. Jackson Brown, Jr. that “Our character is what we do when we think no one else is looking.”
Perhaps an updated version might more correctly advise that “Our character is what we do when we think no one else is looking and when we post on social media.”
The availability of social media in its sundry forms seems to have unleashed a previously hidden human trait of a magnitude of hostility. This hostility presents itself in a variety of forms including criticism, judgment, finger-pointing, turning issues into scandals, character assassination, and disparagement of others, their values, their actions, and their opinions.
Like so many other things in this world that which has a potential for good, is being used for evil. I believe that it is legitimate to compare social media to fentanyl. The synthetic pain medication was developed for special-needs, in-hospital usage. However, today the potent drug is sold on the streets where people are dying by the score from overdoses. It is a scandal.
In much the same way, some who deal in social media have found it a place to vent, to accuse, to deride, to dishonor, and to destroy lives and even ministries.
Social Media Exposes the Inner Person
How people use social media exposes users for who they really are. For some reason, social media has become the venue for some to vent whatever they want whenever they want without repercussion.
From an understanding of the depravity of human nature, this trend is understandable. But that is a far cry from being acceptable by any social or moral standard. For true followers of Christ, the use of social media – or any other form of communication for verbal assassination by accusation – point to the likelihood of a professing Christian who is walking in the flesh, not in the Spirit. (See Galatians 5)
Christ followers experience freedom, not to do whatever we please, but to be released from the bondage of the flesh. Admittedly, we no longer have the right to do as we please, but to submit ourselves to the authority of God and His Holy Spirit. Our freedom is from sin and our desire should be to please our Heavenly Father, not our own ego, pride, or self-righteousness.
We are not called to destroy, but to heal, reconcile, restore, and forgive. Oddly enough, Satan is the poster boy for all accusers. He is revealed as our Accuser in Revelation 12:10 where we are told that he accuses the brethren day and night.
Mark this down: Just as Satan is the father of all liars, he is the father of all accusers.
Let us be careful of how we use social media and cautious of the spate of accusers using social media, regardless of who they are.
What’s in Your Heart’s Wallet?
Paul makes an elegant argument for walking in the Spirit in his letter to the church at Galatia. The church had been troubled by conflict, the subject of which is not as relevant here as is the nature of how they were treating each other. He was deeply concerned about how they were acting within the Christian community and cautioned them that
If you bite and devour one another,
beware lest you be consumed by one another. (5:15)
He emphasized the severity of the evil of slander, dissension, and contention by including them in a list that also contains murder, adultery, drunkenness, and pornography (The Greek word for “fornication” is “porneia).
Paul did not take these dissensions and open oppositions lightly. He could not have made it any clearer than when he said, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (5:21)
Although Paul did not rail against the accusers, he boldly, but politely explained that those who truly belong to Christ do not do these things because they have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (5:24)
What Are We To Do?
Over the next few verses, Paul told believers several things that we must do to live the Christ-like life that the Lord desires for us. (See Romans 8:29)
- Walk in the Spirit, the result of which is evidenced by kindness, goodness, love, longsuffering, and gentleness among others. (Galatians 6:1)
- Do not provoke one another. That is, don’t challenge, combat, contest with or seek to aggravate other believers.
- Seek to restore our Christian brothers and sisters in a spirit of gentleness who may have willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly lapsed or deviated from rightness.
Now here Paul is careful to make three more distinctions which some believers may overlook.
- We are to help other believers bear burdens that are uniquely theirs.
- We are not to think ourselves more highly than we do our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Only those who are described as spiritual in Chapter Five are in a position to do what the Lord expects us of us in Chapter Six.
When we take the time to reason through these scriptures to rightly divide the truth, it becomes clear the responsibility of Spirit-led believers is to act with love and kindness to all and, especially, to other believers. It is not, by any extent of the imagination or reason, our responsibility to stir up scandal by accusing the brethren as the Enemy does but to yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that we may love our brothers and sisters in Christ fully, deeply, and visibly.
That includes using social media for building up the church, not dividing it.
Father, we yield ourselves to your Lordship. We commit to forsake the ways of the flesh and to walk in the Spirit. Use us to lead people to Christ and to teach them how to live according to your Word. Make our hearts and minds especially sensitive to the deceitful nature of accusation and criticism in the church. Most of all, teach us to love each other in the same way that You have loved us. Help us to apply this even across social media and throughout all our lives. Amen.