Paul said some pointed words in Ephesians 5:29 that I think we need to dust off and revisit in the light of our current social media culture. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29 ESV)
I believe if Paul were writing these words today in the midst of our often-toxic social media culture, he would write it this way: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths [or off your fingertips], but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We live in a time where everyone has a platform. Everyone has their own little corner of the internet in which they are sovereign. Everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks their opinion is not only correct, but that everyone else would do well to share the same opinion. This can often turn a place like Facebook or Twitter, which are provided to give us a sense of connectedness to others, into a battle zone. Even worse, I think that oftentimes we will engage in social media dialogue in a much harsher way than we would if we were face to face with that same person. The isolation of social media allows us to vent all of our thoughts and feelings without interruption, but also oftentimes without careful evaluation.
Social media can be a wonderful opportunity and potentially a powerful tool for the advancement of the gospel. It can also become a cesspool where we see the worst of the human heart. I once heard Andy Stanley describe how most of us have learned over time to put a filter over our mouths to control what we want people to think about us. But every once in a while, something pierces through that filter where we say something hurtful, critical, or inappropriate. We usually respond by saying, “I don’t know where that came from. That’s not the kind of person that I am.” But, the truth is that it really is the person that you are. You were harboring those thoughts and emotions all along. You just let something through the filter that you didn’t intend to let pass. When it comes to social media, I think many of us have taken the filter off. Consequently, we get on tirades about political topics. We offer our uninvited opinions about current social issues. Or, we just get mad and vent about something online. The post may give us a temporary sense of vindication, justice, or validation. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, what often gets lost in the wake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. What real victory did you win if you silence someone who disagrees with you about a topic, but you lose the opportunity to speak the gospel into their lives? There will certainly be times when, as Christ followers, we will need to speak up for what God’s word says about certain issues. When we do, we must make sure that what offends the other person is the uncompromising nature of the gospel and God’s word and not our approach or our attitude.
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul gives us some great wisdom regarding the way we use our social media platforms.
- Does what I am typing reveal a corrupt side of my heart where I have refused to let the Holy Spirit have control?
- Am I about to post something that could be interpreted as slanderous, unnecessarily hurtful, or little more than salacious gossip that profits nobody and puts a bad light on the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Is what I am about to say going to be something that “builds others up” or is it going to be something designed to tear others down?
- Is what I am about to type “fitting to the occasion” in such as way that it may show a difference of opinion, but does so with grace and truth?
- Will what I have posted give grace to the readers? Will it reveal a heart that is being transformed by grace? Will it be something that leads others to a greater appreciation for Jesus and his grace?
Let me share you some further tests that I am trying to apply to myself when I use social media. I don’t always get these right. I still sometimes allow my cynical and sarcastic wit to take an unhealthy place in my heart. But, I also realize that whatever platform I have has been given to me by God and should be stewarded just like everything else he has provided me with.
- Do my Twitter and Facebook posts reveal the heart of someone who has been “crucified with Christ” and who no longer lives, but in whom Christ lives? Would this be something that ultimately puts the Lord Jesus Christ in a good light?
- Am I using my social media platform wisely as a tool to make disciples and advance the Great Commission?
- Am I just posting this for my personal validation or am I posting this because I sense the Holy Spirit seeking to lead me to speak on this topic?
- Am I applying the three-tests rule: “Is what I am about to say true? Is what I am about to say necessary to the cause? Is what I am about to say wise or helpful to the situation?”
Like I said before, I don’t always apply these tests perfectly. I still allow my passion for the Red Sox or the Bulldogs to give way to a dig at the Yankees or Rebels from time to time. I still allow my comments to be controlled by cynicism more than by the gospel. But, I think if all of us from time to time would step back from the keyboard and ask some wisdom questions before we typed in that post and hit the “share” button, we would find our journey through the social media maze to be much more enjoyable and profitable. What other tests do you apply when using social media?