Social Media and the God Glorifying Christian
Recently I gave a talk to some of the youth group kids at our church, St Philips Eastwood Anglican Church, on the topic of the Internet and how Christians should go about using it. Particularly I focused on Social Media, and how I thought the youth should go about using sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name a few. Being 20 years of age, I’m very much an advocate of social media sites and the way they reflect God’s own desire for relational living (for more on this idea please read Graham Stanton’s article “A Biblical Theology of Technology”). However I’m very much aware of the effects of sin in our world and the dangers social media presents to Christians, young and old.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
Using this as my key verse, I argued that everything we do on, and with, social media ought to glorify God. To my mind there are 5 key areas I think all Christians, myself included, should strive toward in applying this principle to their social media use.
1. It shouldn’t be our main way of socialising
One of the many advantages of the Internet as a whole is the ability to communicate over huge distances and maintain friendships that would otherwise have suffered from the distance. However we mustn’t see social media as a crux. We are created as relational beings, and there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. We can be showing our love for our brothers and sisters with our time and physical company.
2. Be Yourself
Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram present us with the opportunity to show ourselves as we are: our interests, the things we did on the weekend etc. However it’s so easy to create a version of yourself that suits the wider public appeal, to fit in. This can be especially true of teenagers.
As James K. A. Smith says in an excerpt (which can be seen here) from his book “Imagining The Kingdom: How Worship Works”, the teenager is constantly aware of the things the “popular” kids are doing via Facebook and in the never ending competition for coolness that teenager will follow certain behaviours to fit in with that crowd. As Christians saved by the grace of God we are called to glorify Him with all that we ARE, not with whatever it is cool to be.
3. Think Before you post anything
If we are to glorify God through our use of social media we need to be actively thinking of how we are portraying our faith through our actions. I tell my youth group kids to ask themselves two simple questions: Is it loving? And does it further or hinder the gospel? These can be applied to all of life quite easily, but in this case we as Christians really need to THINK before we post our statuses, photos or comments. Are your Tweets using loving Godly language? Are your Facebook posts and photos constantly centred on you (bragging, selfies etc.)? Are your photos modest in their depiction of your body?
Whilst trying to avoid those things it doesn’t mean that every post needs to be a bible verse or deep and meaningful reflection on but each post should reflect God’s love for us, His image bearers. Remember that we are to be ourselves and if you’re someone whose trust is in Jesus then whatever you post should reflect the hope you have in Him (1 Peter 3:15).
4. Think Before you like/follow
Much the same as what we post, the things we like or the people/pages we follow on social networking sites reveal our attitudes and convictions to those around us. Again, ask yourself: Is it Loving? And does it further or hinder the gospel? Liking photos of girls or guys half naked on Instagram does not reflect God’s attitude to beauty, He is concerned with inner beauty (1 Peter 3). Unloving jokes or bullying comments also don’t reflect what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We must be constantly THINKING of the effects our social media use has on the spread of the Gospel.
5. Be Positive
Social Media should never a place to grumble or complain. The apostle Paul says that we should “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14), and Jesus himself exhorts us to show God’s love in our sinful world so that people might know we are his disciples (John 13:34-36).
Moreover, researchers have found that people who posted negative messages irritated their existing online friends and alienated themselves further. Conversely, those who wrote upbeat posts such as ‘Mike is lucky to have such terrific friends and is looking forward to a great day tomorrow!’ were judged more likeable than people who constantly wrote negative messages, such as “Mel is upset b/c her phone got stolen”. Keep it positive and loving, people will notice your outlook and see the effects of God’s grace in your life. If you need to vent because of a hard day, talk to a close friend about it in person. As Proverbs says: “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Even better, talk to God! He’s a better listener than any human (Philippians 4:6-7).
Also, a quick mention of public disagreements on Facebook. There may be a time where such a thing is important, but as a general rule and particularly where you have a disagreement or issue with a Christian brother or sister, it’s best to begin these not on your public wall but in a private discussion with the person involved. This seems to be the example set down for us by the Lord Jesus and the apostles (cf. Matthew 18:15-20, 3 John 13-14).
Lastly, be careful of how you talk about your own achievements. It’s great when we achieve things, but so often our sinful nature leads us to bragging. Be humble and boast in God and His work, not our own (Philippians 3:7-11).