Social media and the internet in general can have a pretty negative connotation these days. Broadcasting our lives online and having access to so much information often fuels issues with identity, bullying, stewardship, anxiety, anger, and more. However, social media and the internet can also be beautiful tools used to create community, resource leaders, and point women toward the Word of God.
If I were to ask you if you’ve ever bought something you saw on Instagram or Facebook, I’m guessing you’d say yes. If I asked you if you’d ever been to an event based solely on social media, some of you will raise your hands. We’ve all done it. I’ve made purchases, gone to events, and made lifelong friends through the internet. It’s not all bad!
In Acts, when Paul went to Athens, he looked around and saw that “all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Does that sound familiar? He goes on to preach the gospel to those in the Areopagus. In his teaching, he points to their own temple and quotes their poets. He’s going where the people are, speaking their language, and pointing them to the one true God.
We find ourselves in a similar situation to Paul. In verse 26 of that same chapter in Acts, Paul says, “From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.” God has determined that we live in a time and a place where we have Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. We have been given a platform in the midst of the modern Areopagus—if we are on social media, we are where the people are. We have the opportunity to speak their language and point them to the one true God.
You may or may not have a large following on social media, but if you are on social media, I would guess that more people follow you online than you would ever be able to gather in a physical room. We all have the opportunity to influence those who follow us—to buy cute shoes or to grow in their love for Christ.
This doesn’t mean the only thing you can post online are Bible verses (though, God’s Word is encouraging!). Instead, look for ways you can live out Romans 12:9-18 in the time and place God has ordained for you.
Romans 12:9-10 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Think through what that means online. Are there accounts you should unfollow? How do you love others deeply in what you post, what you like and comment on, in what you share? How can you show honor to others in those things?
Verses 11-13 say, “Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.” These verses challenge me to show patience in the midst of hardship and pray before posting online. The internet allows us to share needs with others and pursue hospitality in completely different ways than hosting others in our homes (which we should still do whenever we can). I think about ways I can steward the gifts and the resources God has given me to bless others through financial gifts, encouraging words, and going to God in prayer over needs they share online.
Finally, verses 14-18 really provide a challenge, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Tensions can often run high online when we’re able to post anonymously or from behind a screen. We all need to remember that real people are behind the other screens, image bearers of God who weep and rejoice. As we decide to hit “Post” on something, we must ask, “Is this honorable? Is it humble? Will it bless others?”
While we’re here in this place and time God has determined for us, let’s make the most of the tools He’s given for us to share His love with others. We don’t all have to be online and use social media, but we are all called and commanded to, as far as it depends on us, “live at peace with everyone.” Let’s work to outdo one another in showing honor in real life and on Twitter.
Elizabeth Hyndman reads, writes, and tweets. Officially, she’s a Content Editor at Lifeway. She managed to find a job where she uses both her English undergraduate and her seminary graduate degrees every day. Elizabeth grew up in Nashville, sips chai lattes every chance she can get, and believes everyone should have a “funny picture” pose at the ready. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.