When we lived abroad, I lived an entirely apolitical life. I had no opportunity (nor desire) to speak about the politics of our host country and no need to think about the politics half a world away in America. But since we have been back, (especially this last 12 months) it seems to be the only topic of conversation. I have been thinking about it a lot and finally came up with these 6 passages to help me sort out how to deal with these conversations and my own responsibility.
1. In Jesus Name: Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Col 3:17). All our social media interactions as well as personal and political actions fall under this principle. I sense a lot of cognitive dissonance (the pain that comes when two of our thoughts are in conflict). The fact that our country has separated religion and the state has nothing to do with whether as a Christian my faith and politics can be separated. They can't. Whatever I do, I need to apply this standard to it. Could I read my post (or explain my position) to Jesus and say, "See Lord, I did this in your name?"
2. The Unity of the Spirit: Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). When we deal with other Christians on Facebook we are required to consider unity. Check out Paul's logic here. We are all indwelled by the same Spirit, thus we are united. When I respond to my brother in anger, without humility, gentleness, tolerance and love, I break peace with one in who the Spirit dwells. My connection to God is immediately hindered (Matthew 5:21-26). This is as true when we have religious discussions on social media as it is when we have political ones (The Parable of the Trolls, The Parable of the Trolls Explained,The Care and Feeding of Trolls ).
3. With Honor: Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17). Honor is a tough word for Americans. We believe that "respect" is something that must be earned. Honor is for those who have proven themselves honorable. Yet God has always insisted that honor is given by the honorable to all men especially those in authority whether they deserve it or not (For a great example see Paul's apology to the High Priest in Acts 23:1-11). Thus when we are disrespectful, snide, derogatory, dismissive, and elitist we are showing ourselves to be honorless (If you are thinking of all the other people who talk like this, I invite you to join me in some introspection).
4. With Truth: You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). The children of Satan are liars; the children of the Heavenly Father are compelled to be truth-tellers. Practically speaking, on social media this commitment calls us to do several things: To commit to not passing on false news. To not willfully misrepresent others. To not tell only half of a story in order to shape other's opinions deceitfully (or pass on news that does this). To recognize the truth even when it is politically inconvenient. And to remember that the truth is always more complex than a sound bite.
5. From the Heart: Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil (Matthew 12:33-35). When I write a post, I often read it aloud to my husband asking "Does that sound ok?" Sometimes I am trying to avoid being misunderstood but sometimes it is my conscience niggling at me. I wonder if I should post the words that are bubbling up in frustration. I find myself convicted again by Jesus' words. The angry words, the divisive words, the hurtful words reflect my heart. The rubric here isn't simply that I should double check before I post (although that certain is great advice) but if I find myself writing in a harsh and angry way, I must examine my heart.
6. Wi th Care But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). Jesus says all those careless words (I shudder when I think of every time I've said, "I didn't mean that.") will be accounted for in judgement. Sometimes I imagine all the world gathered to be judged and God has my Facebook feed up on the Jumbotron asking me to explain this or that. Terrifying? I must think with great care about what I say and how I say it.
Do you have other verses that inform your social media interactions? Share them in the comments. We can learn together how to be the people of God in the wild world of politics and social media.