LOVING EACH OTHER ON SOCIAL MEDIA

LOVING EACH OTHER ON SOCIAL MEDIA

As we move into the Christmas season my hope is that we’ll find ways to bless one another on social media. Perhaps we can think of ways to use our voices to encourage and champion others, instead of merely looking for a platform for our opinions to be heard. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about recently. I hope they’ll be helpful for you.

IS THIS GOOD FOR SOCIAL MEDIA OR REAL LIFE?

It seems to me that the rise of social media has pushed people from a place of freedom of speech to duty of opinion. In other words, we’ve moved from the privilege of enjoying freedom of speech to being compelled to give our opinion on every matter, sometimes several times a day online. The sheer volume of opinions and re-sharing of opinions has led to pain and divisiveness. Just because we have an opinion on a public matter doesn’t mean it’s needful to share it publicly, and it doesn’t mean it builds up the body of Christ, not to mention those who are not yet followers of Jesus.

I speak often with friends and family and close church members about the issues of the day, policies, and politics. But I do it within the context of real life community. That said, I do believe there are especially well-informed believers who are poised and gifted to speak to public issues in a public format, and I’m very grateful for them. While there’s no formal way to know who is called or not called to this kind of public service, I think we would do really well to ask ourselves if we’re one of the called or if we simply feel compelled to be heard for the sake of getting our opinion out there. It’s helpful for me to ask myself: is my opinion about a certain matter something I should share on social media, or something that’s best discussed in real life community?

THE HOME BASE IS CHRIST AND HIS WORD

Growing up in a Bible church, I remember the distinct sense of having a home base whenever a doctrinal or political issue arose. In other words, if you weren’t sure where to land on a matter, you had your go-to people who would tell you what to think. I could always count on this Bible teacher or that author for the home-team opinion on just about any matter. Social media, among other things, has essentially blown that up. Take the most recent Supreme Court vote, or the last presidential election, or any recent hot topic, and you have all manner of Christ followers—good ones, solid ones—decisively falling on different sides of these issues.

While the once tried-and-true home base felt safe to me, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that in some respects it’s not there anymore. This means I have to dig into the Bible for myself, be more prayerful, and press into my local church with the people in my community. This replaces what used to be a comfortable and even lazy approach of just seeing what so-and-so-amazing-Bible-person thinks, and taking that as my stance. This is not to say I don’t look to trusted believers and leaders who wisely speak about current affairs from a Biblical perspective. I absolutely do. But at some point we have to dig in for ourselves, and never have I felt this more than I do right now.

THE DESIRE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS VS. MY PERSONAL AGENDA

As I consider some of the most controversial issues of the past few years, I often get the impression that our personal agendas, political aspirations, and general associations seem to be the driving force rather than a desire for righteousness. Regardless of what “side” a person is on, I’ve noticed the tendency to place ambitions and desires against what matters to the heart of Christ so as not to let what matters to Him “get in the way”. More subtly, I’ve seen the temptation to corral the truth down certain paths for personal desired outcomes. All of this is problematic in many ways, not the least of which is using the truth for our own gain. Or caring more about our gain even if our agendas and the truth happen to agree. Do you see how pride and selfishness can still be at the root?

I wonder how we as the Body of Christ might be able to promote peace and unity by caring more about loving others than our personal agendas, and remaining silent when adding another opinion to the pile only deepens the divide.

I wonder what would happen if we cared more about righteousness than ambition.Click To Tweet I wonder what would happen if we cared more about righteousness than ambition, trusted Jesus, His Word, and our local church as our ultimate home base instead of that one person in our “tribe”, and spoke (tweeted, posted, blogged) more sparingly about controversial issues and more liberally about uplifting truths. Maybe we would find something a little more like unity, and the world might just know us by our love.

 

This blog post originally appeared at lifewayvoices.com

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3 Questions to Help Approach Social Media with a Servant’s Heart

3 Questions to Help Approach Social Media with a Servant’s Heart

Social media has been one of the trickiest territories for me to navigate not only as an author and Bible teacher, but also as a friend, neighbor, and family member.

Do I retweet a positive comment about a book I wrote or does that look like self-promotion?

If I’m in a beautiful setting with friends having a remarkable dinner, do I share that with followers or will that leave people out?

Should I upload images while serving on a mission trip or does that look self-congratulatory?

Do I post thoughts about controversial issues or is that divisive to the body of Christ? Is it possible to share personal wins and joys without engaging in the humble-brag?

I hope I’m not the only person who feels this conflicted when it comes to social media.

One simple concept that’s helped me reframe the way I view my place within social media is this:

As a follower of Jesus Christ, social media has to be about a desire to serve people before it can be about anything else. Platform building, self-promotion, circling around our cliques must not be our ultimate aim.Click To Tweet

Servanthood, of course, can take many forms and doesn’t mean we can only post Bible verses and Christian quotes—that would be terribly rote and uninspiring. Rather, servanthood is a posture that helps shape what we post and why. If our ultimate aim is to love God and love others, many of our internal dilemmas about what to post or not to post will solve themselves. With this in mind, here are some questions that have helped me navigate social media.

  1. DOES IT BUILD OTHERS UP?

Whether you’re mostly on social media to keep up with friends and family, you’re in some form of ministry, or you use it for business, you can always look for ways to encourage others. This will eliminate posts that are solely for our own self-advancement or that make us look better than others. When we look for ways we can encourage the lonely, leave an uplifting comment for a stranger, or get the word about someone else’s work, we’ll be using our social networks in ways that love people and honor Christ. Again, we don’t have to get legalistic here. We can, of course, post about special experiences and celebratory moments as a way of sharing a piece of our lives with others. This, too, can be used to build up others, as long as our hearts are in the right place.

  1. WHAT’S MY MOTIVE?

In Matthew 6, Jesus referenced three acts of righteousness the religious people of the day were regularly engaged in—giving to the needy, praying, and fasting. In each case the motivating factor behind these acts of “righteousness” was to receive the applause of others. The problem wasn’t that they weren’t doing the right things, but that they were doing them for the wrong reasons. In today’s jargon, they were putting their good deeds out there in hopes of more followers, likes, and approving blog comments for the sake of boosting their pride and platforms. Jesus pointed out that even though their activities looked good, the motives and intents of their hearts were purely self-focused.

When it comes to the updates or images I post, I try to regularly ask myself: What’s my intent? Even if what I’m posting is true or doctrinally sound, if my heart’s motive is about my pride or the applause of others, then I either need to not post it or wait until my heart is right. The Holy Spirit is always good to help me here.

  1. WHEN SHOULD I WAIT?

Since posting out of heightened emotions is never a good idea, I try to make it a rule not to post when I’m emotional about something. If I’m hurt, angry, or frustrated, it’s always a good idea to wait on hitting publish. Sometimes I come back a day or two later, and I feel free to post that picture or update that status. Other times it’s clear that posting wasn’t the right decision. I find it freeing to remember that the social media world has never suffered because it was missing a comment from me.

Our motives will never be perfect. We’ll never be perfect judges of our hearts. But when our overall posture is to make the name of Jesus great and to love His people, so much of what we publish on social media will naturally take care of itself. And we won’t have to spend so much time asking if we should post this or not post that. We’ll already know. And if we don’t, we’ll save a draft and wait.

This blog post originally appeared at lifewayvoices.com

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Quiet and Small, It’s Okay

Sometimes quiet and small is okay. It may not make for clever Tweets or garner a slew of comments on Facebook, but it’s nothing to fear; Sometimes private is good.

Not every picture has to go through the filters of Instagram and rocket into the public square, it can be for just you; And sometimes hidden is best. Not every blog or bestseller has to be about doing something huge, radical, revolutionary, monumental. By the way, this is not a criticism of the well-known voices we listen to or a critique of their remarkable work. In fact, I am friends with some of these influencers who would be guilty of burying their talents if they did things any other way–they are using their notable gifts truly for the glory of God and they are having a profound reach. So set all of them aside because this is not about them; It’s not a this-way versus that-way. I simply want to ponder another side of what faithfulness looks like.

Tonight two people came to my house to pray. Usually we have six or seven, but this evening there were only three. I made Trader Joe’s French press decaf and served Trader Joe’s sea salt brownies, because I love TJ’s that much. It was small, quiet and I think powerful.

For 46 days my sister and I gave up the same thing for Lent and went through a devotional by Henri Nouwen. The two of us did it together and we read in silence most every morning. Pretty ordinary. Pretty doggone quiet. Still I pray God has changed us through this very small fast.

Over a year ago a friend of mine picked up a struggling woman on the side of the road, got to know her family, and has shared in both their ordinary and special occasions. She’s driven them to church and appointments, bought the kids’ school ornaments for fundraisers and simply been a friend. She doesn’t tell this story from a stage because she doesn’t speak on platforms but, kinda quietly, she’s building the Kingdom.

I had two Jr. High youth leaders who used to take my friends and me to Denny’s after youth group–I consider teen ministry at Denny’s modern-day suffering for Christ–bought us burgers and listened to our urgent and dire struggles that we believed, if not solved, might end the world. They discipled me with patience and love and let several of us spend the night on many occasions even though we nearly burned their house down because of poor microwave popcorn skills. They didn’t get the chance to Instagram the smoke billowing from the kitchen for the reward of a hundred “hearts”, because Instagram didn’t exist. They never blogged about their many years as youth group leaders probably because there were no such thing as blogs. Their service was mostly hidden, but they helped direct the course of my life.

I know a woman who cooks dinner every week for the young single girls in a nearby church. She leads them in Bible Study and meets with them individually for coffee. I once heard her pray with all sincerity, “Lord, there’s not a yacht on any sea I’d want to travel more than I want to be with these girls each week.” (And that, of course, made me think of all the European coastal destinations I’d like to see and how sometimes I want this more than I desire to minister.) The mark she’s making on these women’s lives is profound and hardly anyone knows she’s been doing this every week for two years. She doesn’t have a Facebook profile.

As I’ve been pondering over the past few months, the question is certainly not whether or not social media, publishing, speaking on large platforms, Tweeting, blogging, gaining followers is wrong. This would be to miss the thinking entirely.

The question is at what expense are we being drawn to bigger, louder, larger, best-selling, more famous? Are we losing anything in the pursuit? Are we measuring our faithfulness to Christ by “likes” or by lives?

I can only answer these questions for myself and the answers are not always flattering. Paul speaks to Timothy about the value of leading a quiet and peaceable life which is good and acceptable in the sight of our Savior (I Tim 2:2-3). I am yearning more than ever before for a quality of life pleasing to Him, whether known or obscure. This morning I read in I Cor 3:12-13 that “If any man builds on this foundation [Jesus Christ]…his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.” Social Media and pub deals and music contracts can be of great value but they will not be what brings the value of our work to light. This will only be measured in Jesus.

So I guess I want to encourage so many of you who are going about the daily business of seeking Jesus and loving others, some in front of enormous crowds, others in front of a few. Remember the quality of your labor is not measured in numbers or followers or sales, valid as this may be. As I read Henri Nouwen’s Lenten devotional I was reminded of how he spent the last years of his life ministering in a small community to those with special needs. At times in his writing you can sense his angst, as if he feels he’s not adequately using all his knowledge or skills, or that he’s almost disappearing, and yet his writings have transcended his life. The way he served in obscurity is now changing people in the light. Amazing how God can do this.

For “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Heb 6:10) May we humble ourselves together? And in a world of big, let us never fear what’s quiet. Or small. Or hidden.

*Beth Moore wrote a fabulous blog that overlaps these ideas and I think you’ll find it freeing. Check it out here.

 

 

 

 

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