“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).”
Renewed Social Media
Christians are called to represent Jesus with their lives. On this side of the New Testament, this is what it means to bear the Image of God, to be human as God intended us to be. Oftentimes, Christians forget this charge to represent Christ (myself included), but it seems to happen more than ever on the internet, specifically social media platforms. As long as we’re sharing pictures of our kids and baby animals, we’re safe. But more than anything else, social media has become a stage for heated debate. Choose any topic you want. People will fight over it on social media. This is especially true of politics.
It’s not inherently wrong to debate politics. However, Christians, like with everything else, must bear the image of God in these debates. In our content and our motives, we must represent Jesus in political debates.
Jesus’s Political Views
First of all, let’s consider the content of the views we throw into the public square. Are we representing Jesus? The answer is somewhat complex. It’s certainly safe to say that Jesus has political views. So as far as we can determine what his views would be, then we should aim to line up with him. But how do we do this?
The Bible does not present us with Jesus’s clear takes on freedom of speech, gun rights, foreign policy, economic policy or the majority of modern political issues. So how can we represent Jesus in these debates? It seems best to draw from the principles of his teachings. If we can clearly discern that the principles of Jesus’s teachings support or oppose a political view, then we should adjust our view accordingly. However, if the principles of Jesus’s teachings do not clearly support or oppose a political view, then we should refrain from invoking his authority on that particular issue.
Christians often single out abortion as an issue that Jesus has a clear position on. Jesus did not specifically address abortion, but his teachings on the equal value of all life has led his followers to defend those who are rejected and oppressed by society. This has led Christians to not only defend the lives of the unborn, but also of women, people of different ethnicities, the elderly and the sick. Christians should oppose all political views that degrade human life, and they must fight for the equal value of all people in the political realm.
There are some political issues, where the Christian view should be relatively clear. However, for most political issues this is not the case. We should never attribute a political view to Jesus that cannot be clearly drawn from his teachings. We should be very slow to call a political view “the Christian view.” This also applies to supporting political candidates. We should not use Jesus to justify our personal politics. We should utilize our personal politics to represent Jesus as long as it’s possible.
This does not mean that we can only hold political views that we know Jesus would agree with. For the most part, the Bible is politically neutral. Christians are free to develop and communicate passionate political views without having to find them in the Bible. Throughout Church history, Christians have held a number of different views on the military and warfare, structure of government and economic policy, among many others. Christians can hold these different views and disagree with one another, while at the same time faithfully representing Jesus to the world.
We don’t know Jesus’s view on climate change, the public-school system, minimum wage, healthcare or what “boneless chicken wings” should be called. These are all important issues that need to be discussed, but there isn’t a “Christian” answer. Although we should filter all of our views through the teachings of scripture, we must be able to admit when we have room as Christians to hold different views. There is nothing wrong with having debates, but we have to remember our place. Our opinions are not inerrant and authoritative, and we must be wary of the temptation to twist and abuse scripture to get our way in political debates. This is a temptation Christians often fall into, especially on social media. Before we jump into political discussions and arguments, we need to check our hearts and evaluate our motives.
Why Should We Post?
On Facebook, when you go to post something, it asks you, “What’s on your mind?” I wish that it asked you, “Why are you posting this?” Honestly, for Christians, this question is far more important. As humans, we naturally want to be heard. We want a platform, where we can proclaim our views to as many people as possible. Social media has given this platform to virtually everyone. It’s a great outlet for free speech and advanced communication, but it’s also ripe for abuse.
If as Christians we believe the Lord has given us all we have and we are called to represent him in everything, then we have to figure out how this applies to social media. The attitude of “it’s my page so I’ll say whatever I want to,” is not a Christian attitude but expressly anti-Christian. The call to follow Jesus is the call to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and give up your life on his behalf (Luke 9:23-24). We are called to serve Jesus in all we do, and this clearly applies to how we steward our social media platforms.
When we post on our social media pages or respond to the posts of others, are we representing Jesus well? It is shocking to see how people treat each other on the internet. It’s almost as if we forget we are in real life talking to real people. Social media seems to be a place where people become more susceptible to their own pride. We become so consumed with bolstering our own reputation, showing off our knowledge and winning debates that we minimize or willingly ignore the relational harm we cause.
In representing Jesus, we should treat others as he would treat them. Yet sometimes Christians treat their “friends” on social media worse than Jesus treated his enemies. It’s not natural for us to love our enemies or show grace and kindness to those who hurt us. If someone posts something we disagree with, then we want to correct them. If they start an argument, we want to argue back. If they insult us, we want to come up with a better insult. However, what is our motivation for responding in these ways? As humans, we have to recognize that our natural motivations are often selfish or fleshly (to use a biblical category). Knowing this, we need to take a step back before using our social media platforms, especially when we are dealing with political discussions.
Christians should be wary of using social media out of anger, pride, deception, jealousy, hatred and other selfish, divisive attitudes. We need to recognize the presence of these attitudes in our social media use. We must walk in step with the Spirit of God and act out of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (See Galatians 5:22-26).
If we use social media with patience, then maybe we’ll realize that we don’t need to correct everything our younger friend says on Facebook. If we use social media with love, then maybe we won’t publicly insult people on twitter whom we’ve never met. If we use social media with self-control, then maybe we will limit our usage and we won’t post every thought that comes into our mind (this one can be a life saver). If we use social media in peace, then we won’t constantly stir up debates. If we use social media with joy, then we won’t so often use it as an outlet to complain.
Those who follow Jesus commit to living a life of selfless sacrifice led by the Spirit. Social media is a clear opportunity to make good on this commitment. Our Instagram should not be a platform to show our friends how amazing our lives are. Our Facebook page should not be a boxing arena, where we seek to deliver political knock out punches. Our Twitter feed should not be a competition to see who can come up with the best insults. Our TikTok should not…actually I don’t really understand what people do on TikTok to begin with. Either way, our lives and the platforms we share them on exist ultimately to glorify the Lord. May we decrease so he can increase. May we proclaim his kingdom and not our own.