I love social media for the good that it brings to our lives. I genuinely believe that it provides numerous positive benefits personally and socially. It can be a tool with enormous potential for spiritual impact in our lives. I use social media a lot, although I must admit that I could not care less about seeing a picture of what you had for lunch. But if you post a video of a bear chasing you trying to steal your lunch, well, now you have my attention.
As with most things in life, social media has great potential for good and evil. It depends on how you use it. For example, God created human sexuality and designed it to provide tremendous emotional, physical, and spiritual blessings between a man and woman who are married to each other. But even a God-created blessing that does not follow God’s plan can become a sin that does great harm, although God created it for our good. This is true of sex, wine, food, and many other things. No one would suggest that we don’t eat food. God created it for our joy and benefit, yet many times we destroy our health by the things we eat.
I wonder if Jesus would have a Facebook account? Would he tweet about feeding thousands with five loaves and two fish? Would he take a “selfie” while walking on water?
How Social Media Can Become Sinful
Even though I believe social media has great potential for God’s glory and our good, it can also be used for our harm. It depends on how we use it.
· Gossip – Gossip harms us whether we whisper it in someone’s ear or we write about it on Facebook. Some people would never participate in a personal conversation that destroys another person, yet they gleefully read scintillating blather that obliterates and demolishes another person’s character. They have never had a conversation with the victim of the attack and often have never even met that person. But of course it must be true because it is on the Internet.
· Destructive and Hurtful Words – Not only do destructive posts harm your Christian testimony, they can also affect your job. We have all heard of people who have lost a job or a potential job because of unwise pictures and posts. Guard your words. Remember that when we use offensive language it impacts our ability to share Christ. Passive aggressive jabs at others disguised as prayer requests or spiritual struggles fool no one. If you have a problem with a person, do what Jesus said instead. Go to that person. Don’t take the cowardly way out and air it out on Facebook to try to get people to justify your unforgiving spirit.
· Living a Lie – Let’s face it, we all like to make people think that we are better than we really are. Social media is a great outlet for hypocrisy. I am not suggesting that you take a picture of yourself when you first wake up so the world can see the way you really look. Nor am I suggesting that you post a blow-by-blow of your latest argument with your spouse so you can keep it real. Rather we should avoid living vicariously through other people’s dishonesty. Many times we get jealous of people’s “online lives” and fail to use our common sense filter. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be glad for their beautiful Caribbean vacation. Just don’t fall into the envy trap. Your life isn’t perfect and neither is theirs, no matter how much they Photoshop their pictures.
· Inappropriate Sexual Behavior – Set boundaries for yourself on social media. Countless affairs have started with a seemingly innocent comment to an old flame. Pornography is just a click away. Make yourself accountable on social media. There are far too many temptations.
· Political venom – As a pastor I have deliberately chosen to limit my political comments. I do this, not because I have no political philosophies, but because I place the gospel above politics. Many Christians severely limit their influence for Christ because of the toxic political venom they post on social media. I am not suggesting that you don’t vote or exercise your rights as a citizen. I am simply saying think about what you post. Are there people who need Jesus who will be ostracized and offended because of what you say? I do believe that political correctness damages our culture deeply. Far too many people are easily offended. But the Bible explicitly tells us that the world will know that we are genuine and that Christianity is real because of our LOVE, not because of the laundry list of things and people we hate.
· Time wasted – Perhaps one of the greatest potential sins of social media is a wasted life. The average person spends hours a day on social media. Once again, there is great potential for connection, information, and blessing on social media. But we must live with balance. Maybe a good question to ask is how much time do I spend communing with God, being productive, and communicating with my family each day compared to how much time I spend on social media? Are my opportunities to serve my church, love my neighbor, develop my potential, and lead my family being harmed by the time I spend on my phone or computer?
Would Jesus use Facebook? I believe he would. There are wonderful opportunities for God’s glory and our good to be had. Social media can help us connect with others, inform us, educate us, and empower us to evangelize in ways that were not possible with out it. But like any other blessing in our life, it must be harnessed so that we control it rather than allowing it to control us.