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...[n]o one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. - James 3:8 (NLT)
As we continue in our series Good Work, this week we’re looking at Media as a tool that God can use in our lives, and specifically, I’d love to focus our attention on Social Media.
Tools, in the anthropological sense, are simply extensions of our bodies. What our hands cannot do, a hammer can. When our eyes are too weak, a microscope (or telescope) does the trick. When my voice is too quiet, a megaphone will ensure that I’m heard. Social Media does all of this—it amplifies our voices, gives us a view into both the larger world and the lives of our neighbors, and allows us to build many social bridges at a time.
However, the tool of Social Media also casts a glass veneer over reality; it allows us to see what is happening in the world but obscures the necessary human connection that guides our actions toward wisdom. Without wisdom, bad things happen. Without self-control, without intentionality, without purpose, our interactions on Social Media often have the effect of a toddler playing with nuclear launch buttons. As I’m sure we’ve all experienced, things can get out of hand really quickly. The consequence is an exponentially growing body count as we continue to obliterate one another with one of the most powerful tools of communication ever conceived by man.
We desperately need God to redeem the way we use the tool of Social Media for the sake of the Kingdom. This won’t be an easy week, but worth it. I have much to repent for, and perhaps some of you do as well.
How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. - Luke 19:42 (NLT)
After Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, following several years of miracles and ministry and healing, He is close to His ultimate goal—to make peace between God and mankind by taking the penalty of sin upon Himself.
Once in the city, He has to rebuke Pharisees and chase religious capitalists out of the Temple square. He cries out a bitter prophecy, in which Jerusalem will fall to its enemies and see all of its people (God’s people!) destroyed. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace,” He laments. “But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.”
Why “of all people”? Because these Jews lived in Jerusalem—the holy city. God had revealed Himself to His people and taken up residence in the Temple. He gave them the Law, the road map for peace with both God and fellow man. And now the Messiah was here, but because they did not recognize Him, they began to plot to kill Him. These people knew God, but in this moment, they did not understand God. And so they became violent towards Him.
We will talk about this more tomorrow, but Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace or wholeness. And today? We have Jesus. He is the fulfillment of the law, the embodiment of Shalom for those who find themselves under His grace. Thanks to our Prince of Peace, we have access to perfect peace, and can be at peace with other people.
It is one thing for us as Christians to say we know Jesus. But I do not want Jesus to see His church and say, “How I wish you of all people would understand the way to peace."
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. - Matthew 5:9 (NLT)
So how does Social Media fit into God’s Kingdom? Well, as with any tool, it’s helpful to know what our goal is before we pick up the proverbial hammer and just start swinging.
Yesterday we brought up the word Shalom, and I absolutely love the way Pastor Osheta Moore characterizes it: “Shalom is the breadth and depth and smell and climate of the Kingdom of God, so when we pray ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,’ it is us living into Shalom—God’s dream for the world.”
So what does Social Media enhance? Well, if I am working toward the Kingdom, and my heart’s desire is to see Shalom—God’s dream for the world—come to fruition through His people (i.e. you and me!), then Social Media can become a tool for Kingdom-building.
A huge part of Jesus’s ministry was teaching us how to love as the Father loves, especially when He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44 NIV) And you may think, “But I don’t have any enemies,” but to quote Pastor Moore one more time, “Your enemy is the person who is right on the other side of your empathy.” That may bring a person or two to mind.
Loving as Jesus loves—being a peacemaker—will have us seeking to understand those with whom we disagree or those who have hurt us, which makes participating in Social Media that much more an exercise of obedience to Jesus. It requires us to align our will with the Father’s will if we hope to be effective Kingdom-builders through Social Media.
Answer a fool according to his folly… - Proverbs 26:5 (NIV)
This is what Solomon had to say about engaging on Social Media: "Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation." (Proverbs 26: 4–5, NLT)
Ok, so Solomon just said to not engage in debates with fools. Or… actually, to engage so that the foolish person doesn’t get to think they’re right. He literally just said both. And also, Solomon didn’t live the age of Social Media, so I was joking, but what are we getting at here?
Every time you log on to Facebook or Twitter to see what people are ranting about (politics, anybody?), it seems like this is the proposition: To engage or not to engage. What is the wiser option? Well, it depends.
It depends on whether I am being propelled by the overflow of grace that God has poured into my spirit. It depends on whether I am willing to shelve my desire to be right and prioritize my responsibility to love this person for the sake of Christ. It depends on whether I am about to engage out of my wholeness in Christ (Shalom) or out of my brokenness.
Ultimately our online battles are typically about who will receive vindication for being ‘right.’ I can decimate someone in an argument and perhaps be factually correct, but as the Apostle Paul said, “[even] if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge… but didn’t love others, I would be nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2 NLT). If I cannot engage another person in love, then perhaps it would be wiser to save my words for another day.
When’s the last time you were online and thought, “Oh my goodness, this person’s an idiot”? Take a moment to reflect on Matthew 5:21–24. How does empathy help you live into Jesus’ teaching here?Share Tweet
And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. - Matthew 5:30 (NLT)
As we come to the end of this week, let us consider what Jesus is saying in today’s Scripture: It is better to finish this life well with just one hand than it is to get to the end with two hands, only to be thrown into Hell... His words!
If we wield Social Media as a tool for sin—as a means of degrading or debasing or flaunting or mocking—then it would be best to cut it off completely, to stop using this tool altogether. I know people who have done this, and the resulting spiritual freedom is palpable.
Here is a question: Can we “reattach” our hand after the Holy Spirit has had time to recalibrate our hearts? Is it possible, if we are allowing God to transform the way we think (Romans 12:2), that we can re-engage Social Media with a better heart, with a more faithful and holy purpose, to continue Kingdom work? My thought is yes, if God has called you back to that and if you can do so in a way that keeps you apart from sin. What do you think?
The other alternative is to engage in a new way, a better and healthier way, which may include leaving something like Social Media behind for good and taking all of this new free time you now have (you’d be amazed how the hours add up) and engaging in meaningful and productive Kingdom work in your church and community.
When all is said and done, we can look around and ask our good and gracious God, “What are the tools You have placed before me that will help me do Your will?” And lean into your gifts. Social Media can be a great tool, but it’s just one tool to strive toward Shalom, God’s dream for the world, through the Good Work of His faithful people.