A reader emailed in with this request:
Could you do a blog or something on how Christians should be handling Facebook and Twitter and social media?
That seemed like a really good idea, as social media has given each of us a louder voice and therefore much more power. And, as Uncle Ben* would say, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
So how do Christians responsibly use the power of social media? Luckily, there is a book that answers that question for us. It’s called the Bible.
The Bible and Social Media
How can a book written millennia before the internet even existed have anything to say about social media?
The Bible actually has a lot to say on the subject, because it talks extensively about how we are to communicate and relate to people. Try looking up the word “tongue” for starters; it occurs 137 times in the Bible, and almost all of them have to do with speaking. For example:
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. – Proverbs 10:19
A man of knowledge uses words with restraint...Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. – Proverbs 17:27-28
He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. – Proverbs 21:23
And there are many other verses that likewise have reminded me, at various times, to shut up.
A Time to Speak
But that is clearly not the whole story. We are also called to tell the good news (Romans 10:14-15), to demolish arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5), and to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:8-9
The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. – Proverbs 18:17
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Colossians 4:5-6
So we are to make the most of the opportunity we have online—which means we should say something—but we have to be careful what we say.
Social Media Tips
Let’s get practical. Here are some specific tips for how to use social media for Jesus:
Be intentional. Saying something on social media is roughly the equivalent of standing up and announcing it to a room of 500 people. Now, maybe you really would announce to such a crowd that “These Dorito tacos are amazing!” After all, they are pretty good. But don’t neglect the power of that platform to also say something truly important. (“This Jesus is amazing!”)
Be clear. As much as 90% of face-to-face communication is nonverbal, conveyed through body language or tone of voice. You lose all of that online (unless you are posting a video). To make sure you are not misunderstood, think before you type (James 1:19).
Watch your language. Your non-believing friends might not get the message if you speak in Christianese.
Don’t argue in the comments section. It just doesn’t seem to do any good. Online arguments rarely ever cause anyone to change their position, and they tend to be much less civil than if the same people were having the same discussion in person. (2 Timothy 2:23-25)
Connect with people personally. Most social media posts are broadcast to no one in particular. A personal, one-on-one message or conversation is much more powerful.
Be a true friend. Sometimes people share very personal things, or red flags, on social websites. This is a chance for you to reach out personally and show the love of Christ (John 13:34-35).
Live it out. None of this should be that much different than what you are doing offline. And social media makes our lives today very public; if what you say doesn’t match up with what you do, people will see right through it (and have the pictures to prove it). It is not about using social media to present your life in a favorable light, but rather living your life in a light-filled way (Ephesians 5:8-16).
What have you found that works (or does not work) on social media? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
* Spider-man’s uncle. Not the rice guy.
Kevin McConaghy is a freelance copywriter and serves as editor of The Porch blog. He likes to argue in the comments section.