As I write this post (which is an expanded version of a 2011 post)  I am debating leaving social media. I know, crazy right? But that’s how we stay connected? Is it? I don’t think so. I have been on social media since the begin and it has become one of the most divisive tools in our arsenal. If you post this, if you like that, if you don’t post this, if you don’t post that. It’s all too frustrating. Then, if you say the wrong thing – heaven help you – you will be hit from every angle.

I am not sure how social media became the measuring stick for morality, but it has. People are no longer judged by their lifestyle, but their posts (even more so what they do not post). When I first started on social media it really had two purposes – share & promote Jesus. And yes, I shared some personal opinions – but it became a connecting point for kids in my youth group (yep, myspace). Now, it seems that social media has become the stage for personal attacks instead of honest discussion, insults instead of inspiration, and hit pieces instead of fun conversation.

The Bible says, “And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.” (I Thess 4:12).  Our love for each other must be up close and it must overflow into every other area of our lives – even social media.  The Bible and Christian character must apply to social media – God is not absent from those outlets – but for many his presence is invisible in Christian’s responses, character assaults, and blatant trolling for “I gotcha” moments.

To those who are looking for junk on people – you will find it, but remember “Refuse to be a critic full of bias toward others, and judgment will not be passed on you. For you’ll be judged by the same standard that you’ve used to judge others. The measurement you use on them will be used on you. Why would you focus on the flaw in someone else’s life and yet fail to notice the glaring flaws of your own? How could you say to your friend, ‘Let me show you where you’re wrong,’ when you’re guilty of even more? You’re being hypercritical and a hypocrite! First acknowledge your own ‘blind spots’ and deal with them, and then you’ll be capable of dealing with the ‘blind spot’ of your friend” (Matthew 7:1-5). Written in red, not so it stands out, but to remind you that these are the words of Jesus! I don’t go after other people on social media because I’ve got my own issues – I am just trying to be a better version of me!

So let me give you a few rules of Christian etiquette for social media:

  1. It’s okay to share your opinion, but its not okay to offend.  I learned this lesson a long time ago, “Hurting people hurt people.” That’s not just about what you post, but the words you use and the comments you leave.
  2. Keep your circle small. It’s sexy to say you hit the 5k limit on FB – but lets be honest that’s when it becomes FAKEBOOK. Be okay with a small circle. As a pastor, I am considering eliminating my personal page from the majority of people and simply keep active my “Business Profile” for church related posts.
  3. Remember more people are seeing your posts than your ‘Christian’ friends.  We have to be careful that our comments don’t hurt the cause of Jesus Christ. We still have a Biblical obligation to use every platform as a tool to share Jesus – that’s more important than our opinions!
  4. Don’t go public with what was DM’d in private.  Too many tweet or facebook responses to private conversations.  I hear about it all the time.  In fact, I have experienced it many times.  But private DMs should remain that private – that’s why I seldom use DM for conversation on issues. I am old school – pick up the phone and call!
  5. Respond in the opposite spirit.  If someone comes at you with hate, bitterness or maliciousness simply respond in love! If you see something you disagree with that someone wrote – SCROLL POST IT – that’s called maturity. You don’t need to comment on everything you disagree with.
  6. Social media should not be your personal bully pulpit.  Social media was intended to build relational networks and not hurt them. My wife and I have been the victims over the last 20 years of cyber bullying. We have NEVER used social media to attack people. We have stood up against injustice, non-biblical behavior, etc, but we have chose to be a voice of hope and encouragement. But even that is attacked.
  7. When someone is divisive don’t respond —- ignore.  They are looking for attention.  Don’t give it to them. “Mark those that cause division and ignore them” (Rom 16:17). Those type of individuals want to start a fight – they are trolling for it. Don’t waste your 10 fingers responding to people who hide behind keyboards and computers.
  8. Don’t buy into the lie that everyone is against you. Let’s be honest, everyone does not know you. It’s impossible. If you believe that everyone is against you it will be visible in your feeds, posts, and responses. I try and believe that “everyone likes me” and “everyone is for me.” If they only got to know the real me and not the social me! That keeps me sane – for now.
  9. Hashtags should not divide us. I have spoken with so many pastors and leaders who have said, “I don’t even know what to say anymore.” I have firmly believed for a long time, if you don’t know what to say DONT SAY ANYTHING. But today, we are being forced into statements, hashtag wars, and sparring social media rants, because you did not say it quick enough. Does this verse not apply to social media? “… Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry …” (James 1:19).
  10. Only God can judge me – but social media hacks will try to destroy you. Ask God for incredible wisdom. Never respond. Don’t be forced. You are judged by God. You don’t have to defend yourself – God is your “strong tower” and “defense.” I can’t even tell you the names I have been called over the last few weeks or the nasty comments my wife and I have endured. The problem for us – is they have come from Christians. Ugh. Church going people may be the quickest to shoot their own, kill their wounded. We should be standing TOGETHER, but the SM trolls are alive.

I truly believe that we will be judged by every deed and word … even those words shared on social media outlets. The Bible declares, “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak” (Matthew 12:26). That should scare the “social” out of us! It should cause us to be more cautious, not callous!

Church, let’s be the bride of Christ and guards our tongues (and keyboards) for it reveals what is in our hearts. 1 Peter 3:10:  “For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.”

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