Social media is everywhere today. If you are reading this, there is a better than average chance that you accessed it through social media. Social media is a powerful tool for the Christian, but it can also serve as a weapon in the hands of the enemy. Over the last several months, I’ve been reflecting on this potent battle ground. Upon meditating on the Scriptures, I came up with a number of guidelines that may be helpful to a Christian trying to find his or her way through the maze of social media. Here are four guidelines for building a biblical attitude toward social media.
1. Christ is Lord of Your Social Media
If you truly follow Christ, that means that there is no area of your life that is outside of His Lordship. That includes social media. It is true that the specifics of social media did not exist in the first century when the Canon was being completed. However, that does not mean that there are biblical truths that can be applied to the Christian life with regard to social media.
Matthew 12:36-36 makes clear that we will be accountable before God for every careless word that we speak. It is no stretch to extend this to every careless word that we write whether in print or in cyberspace. Also, Ephesians 5:15-17 teach us that we are to make careful use of our time. Our time is a gift from God that we can either use to glorify Him or that we squander. Lastly, Matthew 6:24 plainly declares that we cannot serve two masters. While the passage is directly referencing money, it can be applied to anything that can serve as an idol.
2. Avoid Interacting with Posts That Will Cause You to Sin
Social media is a valuable tool in our enemy’s arsenal. There is the temptation to idolatry when our love for it exceeds our love for God or when it flatters our vanity. There is a temptation to unrighteous anger when we see the posts that make our blood boil. There is temptation to unchaste thoughts by the more provocative images that are displayed. There any number of ways in which we may seek to destroy the good name of another. There is the all-pervasive subculture of covetousness. Social media can so easily lead us to be discontent with our own condition and to envy and grieve at the good of our neighbor.
Is social media evil then? I do not believe that to be so. Titus 1:15 tells us that all things are pure to the those who are pure. It is those who are unclean that make it unclean. In the early church debates raged over food, drink, and the observance of holy days. Some were tempted to idolatry by eating food offered to idols while others saw no problem with this. Romans 14 deals with this issue and elaborates that the key is not to cause brothers or sisters to stumble. For some, just being on social media is a significant temptation to sin. If you do not have that temptation, do not look down on a brother or sister who does. In the same way, we should be mindful of our own posts. I will discuss this more later.
How then do we handle temptation? 1 Corinthians was written to a church afflicted by sin. In chapter 10 verse 3, Paul stresses to the Corinthians that their temptations are not novel and that God provides the means of escape. In Matthew 5:29-30 Jesus paints a radical picture of what this looks like. Colossians 3:5-10 depicts a similar picture. We are at war with the sinful nature. This is the process that Scripture calls mortification.
How then can we mortify the sin that manifests itself through our use of social media? One of the best inventions on Facebook was the “Unfollow” option. I have used it many times when posts tempted me to sin. Often times, these issues stream from the same wells. Unfollowing a page or a friend that makes posts that produce temptation may help to eliminate that temptation. If the temptation becomes too extreme, try doing a social media fast. Leave it for a while and come back later. Above all, our Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. If this is an area of struggle, talk with a brother or sister in Christ whom you trust. They can be a support to you in this.
3. Interact with People, Posts, and Pages That Will Edify You in Christ
Social media is an excellent forum for connecting with brothers and sisters in Christ and for mutual edification. Having a group of Christian friends who will support you in your walk is essential to following Christ. This is equally true on social media. It is especially helpful to find those who post truly biblical material and give wise counsel.
In addition to having good Christian friends to follow, I recommend following pages that are going to uplift, inspire, and edify. If you can think of a quality Bible teacher, they probably have a Facebook page and Twitter handle. A few really beneficial ones that I’ve found are John Piper’s “Desiring God,” Alistair Begg’s “Truth for Life,” and The Gospel Coalition. Also, following ministries that support missions can be helpful for edification.
There are even pages that are maintained that post content from great teachers who have gone on before us. One page posts quotes from Charles Spurgeon. These have been particularly useful for me recently. There are others for William Tyndale, John Owen, Martin Luther, and John Calvin just to name a few. In addition to these are pages that post daily catechism questions.
4. Before You Post, Like, or Share, Give it the “STEP” Test
Philippians 4:8-9 reminds us that our meditation should be upon those things that are beneficial to our spiritual growth. When we interact with material in social media, we should always think about the benefits that this will have to us and to others. That’s why to prevent causing harm to a fellow believer, I recommend using the STEP test. The STEP test gives a quick evaluation of whether something may be beneficial.
i. S – Is it sound?
Is the material that you are sharing theologically and logically sound? Few things make me cringe more than a misapplication of Scripture, a statement that contradicts Scripture, or a logical fallacy. If you want to see as many of these as possible, be on social media. As Christians, we are all called to know and proclaim the Scriptures. Before you click like, be sure you know what it says. Is a verse taken blatantly out of context? Is a false doctrine being promoted? Is a logical fallacy being perpetrated?
ii. T – Is it true?
There’s an old saying that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its boots on. This more true now than ever. Too often, material that is not fact-checked is posted, reposted, tweeted, and retweeted so fast that it will make your head spin. Before you post, like, or share, check the accuracy of the post. This unfortunately applies to almost all news sources and many Christian blogs.
iii. E – Is it edifying?
Ephesians 4:29 reminds us that we are to build up the Body of Christ with our words rather than tearing it down. We are also ambassadors for Christ to those outside the Kingdom. Because of this, what we post, like, and share should be edifying. Edifying material can include material that lays out the Gospel in plain language and encouragement for the Christian walk. It can also include correction of error when communicated in a loving manner and showing error in false doctrine. The key to this is the manner in which is communicated.
iv. P – Is it pure?
Whatever we post should never tempt another person to sin. If there is any questionable wording in a post, think twice before liking and sharing. Avoid profane language and ad hominem attacks that malign another person’s character or the character of a group of people. Remember that the chief way to refute a person is to dismantle an argument and not attack them personally. Also, avoid posting, sharing, and liking images that do not reflect modesty. Above all, remember that we have freedom in Christ but do not use freedom as an excuse to destroy a brother or sister in Christ. To put a modern spin on Romans 14:15, by what you post, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.
This list is far from comprehensive. It does nonetheless direct our focus back to who we are. Remember whose child you are. You are adopted into the family of God by the mediation of Jesus Christ. Remember who ambassador you are. You are an ambassador for Christ charged with proclaiming the gospel to those who are rebels to His rule. As with anything, if you put your focus on Christ, then everything else will follow. Hebrew 12:1-2 is a good reminder. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (ESV)