August 4th, 2012 by Kristi Stephens
It’s a tricky time to have internet access.
Social media has given us an unprecedented platform with wide arrays of people whose lives have intersected with our own over the years. In my facebook stream, the thumnail images of church members, extended family, high school buddies, college roommates, long-lost childhood friends, former co-workers, and new acquaintances mingle in a strange virtual social mixer. We all barrage one another with pictures, status updates, location check-ins, game scores, and song lyrics and think of it as connecting with one another. It’s like a virtual friendship form of speed dating with hundreds of people, without ever having to look someone in the eye.
Now let me just say, I love facebook. This week I reconnected (in person) with a friend I haven’t seen in almost a decade, meeting her husband and boys for the first time. Without facebook I wouldn’t have known their names, seen their pictures, or even have known that we were going to be in close enough proximity to meet up for a brief but sweet reunion. As a person who has moved several times in my life and lives far away from family and dear friends, social media is a real gift.
But sometimes, social media can be incredibly destructive. We hunker down behind our laptops and feel less inhibited to throw out words without weighing consequences. Like that obnoxious person at a social gathering who likes to throw out political or theological jabs just to stir things up, we can quickly become caustic and biting, forgetting that those little thumbnail pictures on the screen represent real live human beings with baggage and wounds and emotions that we simply cannot even come close to understanding without face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball communication.
No doubt, every person who has a facebook account, twitter account, and/or personal blog has learned the hard way that words can be interpreted in a host of unintended ways once they are posted online. We have wounded, we have been wounded.
Social media and online interaction of all forms can be a tremendous way to share truth. But we must never forget that we are commissioned to share truth in love. We must walk this line carefully, for we are all prone to fall off toward one extreme or another. Love without truth is destructive and misrepresents our God and His revealed Word. Truth without love leaves carnage in our path as we rip open festering wounds of hurting people – and the danger of online interaction is that we can rip open a wound with a status update, close our laptop, walk away, and never see the mess we left behind.
Whether it’s a status update about Chick-fil-a, or the upcoming election, or a host of other potentially explosive topics, we must beg God for the wisdom to know how to walk that line. How to use social media as the powerful tool for good that it truly is, and avoid needless offenses that simply layer larger callouses on wounded hearts, closing them off even more from the Gospel they so desperately need to hear.
The Gospel is inherently offensive as it lays open our souls and exposes us for what we really are. People will be offended by us if we live like and speak like Jesus – His peers hated Him enough to kill Him. But may they be offended by the truth we lovingly present, and not by the haphazard way we wield the sword of online communication.
Lord, teach us to walk the line.