Face it, Facebook (I use this as a moniker for all social media, i.e., Twitter) is a part of our culture and it is not likely to go away any time soon. Like money, the love of Facebook is the root of many evils, and yet, at the same time, it has the potential to be used for the glory of God and the heralding of the gospel.
I am intrigued, overjoyed, and discouraged by Facebook’s social influence. I have lists of friends, church members, family members, co-workers, high-school friends, fellow pastors, theologians, churches, etc. I check in on some of these lists regularly just to see what’s going on in the lives of people I know – know of – or wish I knew. Again, it can be joyfully encouraging or a colossal waste of time and instantly discouraging.
A friend recently sent me a note in which he was seeking advice in guiding one of his children through the decision on whether he would allow her a FB page or not. I immediately thanked God for having children who are young enough to make this request a non-issue in the Capranica home at this point. My friend’s child came up with a list of what she would not do on the page if and when allowed to have it. Good list, but it had me thinking. For some reason, Facebook has evoked an “I will not” response because it has such a potential for producing what is unhealthy. What about the “I Will’s” of Facebook? A host of “I Will Not’s” is perhaps necessary, but we often stop there. Where are the “I Will’s” of Facebook (or of any form of communication, use of money, and relationships, etc.)? And how should the Christian use it? What does Scripture say about Facebook and the Christian’s use?
Jesus said, what comes out of our mouth is merely evidence of what lives in our heart (Mark 7:20-23). Ah, how aptly this applies to our keyboards. What flies from our fingertips into the online community is another form of evidencing what lies at the foundation of our soul. Perhaps even more so than what we will say to another person face-to-face. Have you noticed how quickly we will type out our frustrations, fits of rage, and expressions of spite, while sitting in a quite room, from behind a non-responsive monitor? Perhaps the screen has deceptively dulled our self-preserving senses to think that our thinking out loud on Facebook is somehow going to create fewer problems than if we had communicated the same feelings face to face. The reality is that Facebook can have a tendency to shelve the kind of self-control that face-to-face conversations tend to illicit.
I understand that authenticity is the buzz of our virtual society today. But posting “authentic” status updates is often no more than virtual complaining and expressing our dissatisfaction with the sovereign purposes of God. Should personal concerns with family members, tragic events in relationships, and disdain for public officials, be openly broadcast in a public forum? If it really is genuine concern, practical help, empathy, and sympathy we are seeking, and we feel a deep urge to express it digitally, why not e-mail our closest brothers and sisters in Christ seeking their counsel and encouragement? Why not shoot out a group text to those we know will personally pray for us? Why is it that we feel it is more helpful – or more authentic – to publish our problems in the broadest possible forum? And what if we are sinning in our sharing? Are we really open to what should be a public rebuke for our public transgressions? I speak to myself as much as to anyone else.
But not all is bad. Certainly we can share encouragement from what we are reading in Scripture, appeal for people to pray for particular issues, express our joy in Christ for specific blessings, post a passage from a book we are reading, let people see a picture of the joy we are experiencing while with family or friends, check in at church as an indication of our value for gathering with God’s people, as well as authentically express our desires for greater godliness and requests for prayer. Allowing family and friends to see glimpses of God’s goodness in normal and unique moments can be highly encouraging. Not all about Facebook is bad.
In a very real sense, Facebook is nothing more than another means of communication; and Scripture has much to say about our communication.
I will actively glorify God in posts, pictures, comments, likes, pages, responses, pokes, applications, and all else that the geniuses at Facebook come up with (1 Cor 10:31).
I will build up, as fits the occasion, and give grace to those who read (Eph 4:30).
I will be kind to others, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven me (Eph 4:32).
I will express thanksgiving with my postings so as to avoid filthy, foolish talk, and crude joking (Eph 5:4).
I will look carefully at how I behave on Facebook, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Eph 5:15, 16).
I will be known for giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:20).
I will delete my account (tantamount to perhaps plucking out my eye or cutting off my right hand?) if Facebook causes me to live in sin (Matt 5:27-30).
I will do to others on Facebook what I would want them to do to me on Facebook (Matt 7:12).
I will be careful about doing what I do on Facebook to merely be noticed by others, for then I will have no reward from my Father in heaven (Matt 6:1).
I will do my good deeds on Facebook so that others will see my good works and give glory to my Father in heaven (Matt 5:16).
I will return good for evil said to me and/or about me (Matt 5:38ff).
I will love those who digitally demonstrate that they don’t love me and pray for those who persecute me online (Matt 5:43).
I will express the priority of pursuing the kingdom of God and His righteousness to the detriment of expressing my faithless anxieties about those things God has promised to provide (Matt 6:25-33).
I will be ready to give a gracious answer to those who are seeking to know about the grace of God granted to me (1 Peter 3:15, 16).
I will speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15).
I will demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit when I post and while I read (Gal 5:22-24).
I will love my neighbor as myself (Matt 22:39).
I will give more time to face-to-face fellowship (Hebrews 10:23-25) than Facebook virtual fellowship.
I will use other’s posts as a means to pray for them (Eph 6:18-19).
I will publicly honor those whom God has sovereignly placed in authority over me (Rom 13:1-8), so that I can live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way, because it is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:1-4).
I will communicate my love to my wife, my children (friends, loved ones, etc.) more regularly in person and before I ever communicate it online (Eph 5:25-6:4).
I’m sure there are more Scriptural governors that need to be set on my online presence, and I invite your contributions.
The point of all of this being – the glory of God is to joyfully govern every area of a believer’s life. And Facebook has more than likely become a long-term part of our culture and must be captured for obedience to Christ (2 Cor 10:5-6). More than just expressing what we won’t do with our virtual friendships – I think its even more helpful to consider what we will do with our cyber-social lives.