“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Technology is a beautiful thing. The Internet has been used as a powerful tool to spread the love of Jesus and the life-changing message of the Gospel around the world. It's also misused on a daily basis by so many of us. The world sees one Christian's behavior and associates it with all Christians. They see one person's actions and assume it represents the God we are supposed to serve.
Our behavior, particularly our interactions online, are always under a microscope. The problem so many encounter is that they lose sight of that fact.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in Romans 12, which gives an outline – or how-to guide – for living the Christian life. In fact, in the ESV version, Romans 12:9-21 appears under the heading of “Marks of a True Christian.” The truths expressed in this passage give us a roadmap to how to exhibit true Christian behavior. When these “marks” are represented in our real life, it's only natural that they'll come through in our interactions online.
Love people genuinely. Love is critical in the life of a follower of Christ. In fact, it's a command. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). It's our identifying characteristic. Everything we do on social media should reflect love – real love. “...let us not love in word or talk but indeed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Be Empathetic. One of the reasons there is so much cruelty on the Internet, and much of it from Christians, is because we have a hard time understanding the feelings of others. We think our views are the only right views, and it's impossible to fathom another's. We need to take time to listen and understand our brothers and sisters. As the old saying goes, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” It's to listen twice as much as we speak.
Overcome evil with good. When someone hurts us, our tendency is to want to hurt them back. But, Jesus tells us to “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28). Jesus’ brother, James, puts a fine point on it: “With [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-11). We need to remember that the people we encounter online – especially the ones with whom we disagree the most – are made in the image of God. Jesus died for them, just as He died for us.
Before posting anything online, we should ask ourselves:
Is this loving? Is it honorable? Am I being empathetic? Is it bringing peace, or is it divisive? Am I being prideful? Am I trying to overcome darkness with more darkness? If we can't answer all of these questions the way we ought, perhaps we should step away from the keyboard.
Father, thank you for choosing us. Thank you for allowing us to have a relationship with You. Please forgive us for the occasions when we allow our earthly desires to take precedent over what you would have us to do. Thank you for the technology you have given us. Help us to be good stewards, and through your Holy Spirit, leads us in how we use it. When we interact online, helps us to be full of love, empathy, grace, mercy, peace, humility and goodness. Amen.