“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)
Social media in the 21st century has provided an interesting outlet. All of those Wendy Whiners who few people would have been able to stand listening to unload for 10 minutes have found a more captive audience on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube. What once would have been considered socially inappropriate or disrespectful in public conversation – slander, complaining, or boasting – is now the public norm in social media. I’d like to say that Christians are significantly different in this regard, but you and I both know that that wouldn’t tell the whole story. As with their life outside of the internet arena, some Christians definitely do let their light shine in their social media presence. Others don’t.
For those who do, well done good and faithful servant. While I can’t quantitatively prove this, if Jesus was on the earth in 2012, I have a hard time not picturing a guy who was all about public proclamation & close relationships not having a Twitter & Facebook account. So, for Christians to “correct, rebuke, and encourage” (2 Tim. 4:2) or in social media terms, “tweet, pin, and like” to the glory of Jesus, is a very positive thing happening on the internet.
This article isn’t so much for them. In fact, this article isn’t so much for those Christians who don’t live a particularly godly life in their social media either. This article is more for the sake of Christians and non-Christians both who have witnessed Christians not living out their faith in their social media accounts. Now, as a guy who has said lots of stupid things in his life, more often than not, things foolishly self-validated in pursuing the goal of getting a laugh or making a point, I want to apologize on behalf of Christians who say stupid things.
While there are many sins of the tongue, I’ll specifically mention the 3 I listed earlier that frequently show up amongst Christians in social media: slander, complaining, and boasting.
It would be hypocritical of me to complain, in this blog, about much of the negative “Christian” blogging I’ve run across on the internet. And I should mention that I honestly don’t have one specific blog or website in mind, but am referring to a general trend I’ve run across in a wide host of “Christian” websites. So I’ll try to be fair and gentle here. I’m not sure why, but there is an INSANE amount of “Christian” bloggers who fancy it their life mission to be doctrinal watchdogs. While I’d like to applaud said persons’ desire to preserve or promote something they’re passionate about, I’m less thrilled about them attaching their methodology, which often includes vilification mixed with shoddy Adobe Photoshop work, to the name of Jesus. Such a person is generally critical of one or another particular group, and have just enough guts to tell that to everyone and everything that will listen, except of course, the face of the person that they’re actually critical of, behind closed doors (Matt. 18). Consequently, when well-intentioned Christians are actually trying to find out more about a certain church or church body, say, for instance, Lutheranism, they instead have to run across the bitter writings of someone with a wounded ego and a keyboard who assumes that the web traffic resulting from their contrarian viewpoint is the result of great insight, rather than its actual draw – it’s just contrarian for the sake of contrarianism. In a post-Christian culture, denominational cheap shots do nothing for anyone’s faith except turn people off to the name of Jesus. There is no way to do it to the glory of Jesus. And I’m sorry so many have had to see it.
There’s been a number of interesting stories in the news recently regarding employees getting burned by badmouthing their employer via their Facebook account. Again, we’d like to think that Christians were immune. But many Christian youth find social media a great tool for letting their disapproval of their teachers, their managers, their classmates, or their parents be heard…….probably their pastors too, but they hide it from me well :).
Whether online or not, the line between legitimate grievance and unwarranted complaint is pretty thin. Nonetheless, as mentioned under the topic of slander, there is a proper audience, venue, and method. Facebook probably doesn’t need to hear what an idiot your boss is. What could that actually accomplish anyway? Is there a legitimate chance that your 538 social media acquaintances are going to storm your business and demand better treatment? If 10 people “liking” your status makes you feel vindicated in your discontent, is that actually going to make getting up and going to work that much more fulfilling the next day? Conversely, if you praise your way through the hardship, what would that say about the way the gospel has changed your view of life, work, and people?
This might be the most nauseating of all. When Facebook first came out nearly a decade ago, I remember reading articles about how incredibly self-involved the constant proclaiming of “your status” and “what’s on your mind?” really is. I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought at the time, seeing it simply as a good networking tool. With the majority of Americans, including Christians, now posting updates on Facebook, I think I get it.
Obviously there’s nothing wrong with posting what you’re up to. Where it gets a little uncomfortable is when a Christian posts a “Look what I did! Praise Jesus!” status OR an “I have a real dilemma that’s not really an actual dilemma. Please pray for me!” type of situation. Look, I understand how cynical that may sound. I DO NOT mean to question the sincerity of those who are genuinely praising Jesus or seeking prayer requests. But many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. In the same way that every time someone says the name “Jesus Christ” they’re not necessarily praying, many on social media are not sincerely worshiping Jesus when seeking to glorify themselves or their good fortune – which, without question, is a big part of the appeal of Facebook for many people. I would suggest this is a little like the girl in the Chevy who cut me off in traffic the other day going north on Hwy 52. The last thing I saw before I slammed on my brakes was her Jesus fish swimming into my lane devoid of a turn signal. The attachment to Christ, in such a case, does more damage than good.
Look, I’m a sinner saved by Jesus and using social media too. I KNOW I’ve posted things that should have been said better or not at all as well. And again, this is something I have repented of and will learn from. It’s an interesting world we now live in where communication is instant, constant, public, and permanent. I’m not suggesting Christians get off social media. I’m simply suggesting that we, now MORE THAN EVER, need to think about how what we post, just like what we speak with our mouths, might be interpreted by the watching world.
And finally, consider the tongue of Jesus. This is a tongue that prays for his enemies (Matt. 5:44), asks God to forgive his critics (Luke 23:34), seeks to show mercy to sinners (Matt. 9:13), and who loves foolish and stupid people (Mark 10:21), us included. And then Jesus tongue fell silent in his trial before the Sanhedrin, except to tell the truth that would get him killed, so that we wouldn’t have to die as a result of our wagging tongues (Mark 14:53-65). If seeing the patient and gentle tongue of our Savior doesn’t put out the flames of our digital tongues, I guess I don’t know what will.