Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shining Your Light on Social Media

The modern world comes with modern challenges.  We talked recently about the issue of bullying, a modern "sin" hiding some very real Biblical sins.  It's hard for us to translate sometimes the simple principles that Jesus gave us into the gigabytes we live with.  Take social media for an example.

I know there are all kinds of posts out there castigating social media. I hear that Facebook is a huge waste of time.  People are connecting with strangers and neglecting the real people right in front of them.  Twitter is a kind of viral gossip and Pinterest is rife with boasting, envy and crafts that  could cause a saint to cuss.

There is truth in all that.  Especially the bit about the cussing and the crafts!  Like me you might have even heard people suggest that social media might be something best avoided by Christians altogether. But if we are going to choose to use social media (and I definitely do), then we need to ask ourselves how should our light shine on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest (Matthew 5:14-16)?


Before we try to answer that we'd better back up and see what the Bible says exactly about being the light of the world. 
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Letting our light shine is defined here as doing good works in such a way that God is glorified.  What good works could be done via social media? 
  • Raising money for a missionary friend
  • Using our newsfeed as an updated prayer list.
  • Sending encouraging notes by PM.
  • Watching on social media for statuses that indicate someone needs help.  (For example, your friend from church's dad is in the hospital.  PM her and see if you can keep the kids tonight or if you can order pizza for them.)
Of course there are a myriad of others.  But it wouldn't be fair to the word of God to pass on without pointing out the end of the verse: "that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Just because social media may allow us to do good works doesn't mean it is ever acceptable to brag in a post about the good you are doing (Matthew 5:14-16).  The next WW on social media will cover the topic of envy so be sure and catch more on this theme then. 

This isn't the only thing in the bible on shining our lights though.  See if this quote doesn't sound familiar:
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Phiippians 2:14-16) 
Do we use our opportunity to show up on any number of people's newsfeed as an opportunity to complain? No one appreciates people who are inauthentic, pretending that every moment is picture perfect, but when we have nothing but bad things to say about our car, our house, our family and friends it says more about the state of our hearts than it does about the truth of our lives. Are we showing our graceless, thankless attitude by whining about our blessings?

Or worse do we use our social media connections as an opportunity for dispute? Far too often I have seen Christians sucked into violent maelstroms of ugliness.  One meme with a political bent and the next thing you know there are Christians calling names, writing in all caps, and unfriending.  I have a personal policy not to respond if I am angry, to bow out of discussions if I am making others angry, and to excuse myself from groups that are consistently negative and hurtful. Don't hear me say we shouldn't be people of the truth, but that's different from being people of the argument!

Finally Paul insists we must be blameless and harmless.  Social media can open us up to the accusation of hypocrisy so we should take care with these two attributes.  More than once I have seen sexy-selfies, half drunk pictures, crazy angry accusations and "Share if you love Jesus" in the same 24 hours of feed from the same person.  We shouldn't pretend to be holier than we are. Rather our holiness and gentleness should be evident from our hearts, our actions and our posts! (Philippians 4:5, Ephesians 4:1-3)

Our generation is like the one Paul is writing to - crooked and perverse.  When we show ourselves to be people of gratitude and people of peace, when our good deeds glorify God (not ourselves) we are shining the light.  Surely it's not a bad thing to shine that light on Facebook, Google+, or Instagram.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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