Today I almost deleted my Facebook account…
I was not an early adopter of Facebook, but these days nobody would question that I have fully embraced social media. This is not only through the use of Facebook, but also Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and even my personal Blog that is connected to these various services. In many ways social media has become an incredible tool for someone with my interests and background.
There are some obvious benefits to this technology, such as the ability to keep up with the lives of friends, former classmates, family members, and those that share my personal hobbies such as running. However, these things are only the tip of the iceberg.
As an active member and Bible class teacher at the Bellevue Church of Christ, social media provides me with an additional avenue of communication for church events, fellowship opportunities, Bible class notes and handouts, and those in need of prayer and encouragement. As a guest preacher and Bible class teacher, I have been blessed to work with a number of churches in Middle Tennessee through the years. Facebook and Twitter have provided me with a great way to stay in touch with my brothers and sisters in those churches, when this would have otherwise been difficult. It has also made it easier to keep up with the efforts of missionaries in other countries, especially those I’ve personally worked with in southern Honduras.
However, for all of the good things about Facebook and social media mentioned above, there are many things that really concern me, especially when coming from Christians. I remember vividly the moment when I found out about the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. I was overwhelmed with sadness, and all I could think about was the need to pray. Probably the best post I saw on Facebook in response to this unspeakable act was from our preacher, Tom Riley…
Unfortunately, this was not the typical response that I saw from my fellow Christians. Between Facebook and Twitter I would estimate that 7 of every 10 posts coming from Christians were regarding the political implications of the attack, rather than anything concerning the victims, the families, the community, or most importantly….prayer. This shocked me.
Are we really more concerned about politics, than about those directly affected by such an awful event? Many of these posts led to further, contentious discussions. I understand people having these concerns, but why voice them in the midst of such a heartbreaking scene? What message does this send to those around us? I expect this type of response coming from the world, but not from the followers of Christ. Jesus was the ultimate example of one who gave up himself (Phil 2:4-11), and consistently demonstrated compassion for others (Matt 9:36-38, Matt 14:14-21, etc) throughout his earthly ministry. Should we not also strive to demonstrate this same compassion with all of our actions, instead of putting ourselves first? Even when Jesus was faced with the cruel injustice of the mob coming to arrest him in the garden of Gethsemane, he simply looked at Judas and said “Friend, do what you came to do” (Matt 26:50, ESV).
Today, I feel a similar sense of surprise in the wake of the tragedy in Boston. I spent yesterday afternoon desperately trying to locate my friends who had participated in the Boston Marathon. A couple of hours after the attack, I found out that my friend Vicki was only 400 meters from the finish line when the bombs went off. Her boyfriend had been knocked to the ground by both explosions, had a perforated ear-drum, and was covered in blood from those seriously injured.
This morning I read about the 8-year-old boy who lost his life after hugging his dad at the finish line, and running back to be with his mom and sister. Again, just like with the Sandy Hook shootings, I was overwhelmed with sadness, and all I could think about was the need to pray.
But, when I looked at my Facebook timeline, what I saw were Christians making jokes about how the President might overreact to the situation or other types of divisive political statements. How can a Christian possibly think about politics in the midst of such suffering?
As Christians we must remember these words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount:
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:13-16, ESV)
This applies whether we are at worship, at work, at home, or are posting a note on social media. Even though I was temped today to delete my Facebook account because of this, I was quickly reminded of the benefits of social media as I mentioned above. I am also reminded of the times when I’ve posted something with a message or tone inconsistent with the love of Christ, and am going to use this as a personal reminder to take great care with the things I convey through all avenues of life, including social media.