Ok, so admittedly the title of this post is a bit extreme—in part to grab your attention (did it work?), but in part because as jarring as that title sounds, I believe there’s a lot of truth to it.
Not convinced? Just take a moment to open up your phone or computer and peruse Facebook, Twitter, news, etc. for a few minutes … in just a scroll or two, I’m sure you’ll notice the evidence in harsh black and white, in the sea of hate-filled rants, comments, articles, tweets, etc. etc. etc.
Like many of you, my heart is dreadfully heavy over what I’m seeing online these days … so heavy that I very nearly decided to forgo a post this week in favor of chucking my laptop out a window. We don’t seem to be able to agree on much these days, but I’m fairly confident that we could agree it’s been a rough week in cyberspace.
I’ve witnessed more vitriol and division in my schizophrenic Facebook feed than I did even back in November. And the never-ending spinning torrent of opinions and word-daggers breaks my heart, because it’s only pushing us farther away from one another. I don’t believe we can fully understand each other in black and white pixilated words on a screen.
When this is our primary means of communication, we forget something: our humanity. Our Facebook accounts don’t have emotions, but you and I certainly do. We each have deeply held convictions and beliefs that dictate how we vote, what laws we support, what marches we attend, and so on.
Y’all, our enemy is somewhere bowled over laughing right now—laughing till his belly hurts. He’s probably sipping a Mai Tai under a palm tree, because the endless supply of hate-filled rhetoric bouncing around cyberspace has given him a chance to go on vacation. Listen to a few descriptions of his character:
When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44 NIV).
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10 NIV).
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).
It’s quite a wake-up call, examining what we’re up against in this world—and I feel that pull towards discouragement, and wanting to walk away and hide out in a cave until it all blows over (if it all blows over) …
… but then, I’m reminded of our call as followers of Jesus, per His very own words:
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV, emphasis added).
For better or worse, social media and technology in general is a part of our lives—it’s woven into our place in history. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take a step back from time to time—indeed, I think that’s an excellent idea (and I’m contemplating taking a break myself!).
But in this turbulent time, when it feels like our only options are to either spew our opinion in a hateful, arrogant manner or run away from it all, may I encourage us to apply the words of Matthew 5 to our lives, both real and online?
This world of social media—which can be so damaging—has the potential of being used by Jesus followers to shine a light into the ever-creeping darkness in which we find ourselves. With our words, our actions, and our opinions, we can shine a light onto truth, love, kindness, humility, and the grace that builds bridges.
I’m not urging anyone to censor his or her opinion … but I do urge you, as I urge myself, to value people and relationships above opinions and rhetoric.
Let’s not take the enemy’s bait. Let’s follow the beautiful, wise words of Proverbs instead:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).
My challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is simple: use social media to bless one person today. Offer up sincere words of encouragement in whatever way the Holy Spirit leads you. Let your light shine, and together let’s make our enemy squirm … and perhaps cut his vacation short.
Be blessed, dear one—