At long last, the document, Biblical Guidelines for Social Media has arrived. A special thanks to Jason Storms for helping to write this and my lovely bride, Kendra, who helped to edit it.
We believe this document can help Christians as they negotiate through the maze of modern technology. We pray it glorifies God and benefits his people as they communicate through social media. If you find any merit, please pass it on in your sphere of influence. Thanks!
Biblical Guidelines for Social Media
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17).
We live in a time when technology is emerging faster than the church can comprehend, balance, or integrate . For many, the rush of new technology, especially as it pertains to social media (social networking sites, message boards, microblogging, YouTube, and Instagram), is speeding past our ability to critically evaluate our communications and apply biblical standards.
According to Pew Research data, ninety-two percent of teens report going online daily. Seventy-one percent of teens use more than one social networking site. Facebook is the most popular platform for teens, with the median number of “friends” at three hundred. And it’s not only teens on social media. Nearly three quarters of adults online use social networking sites. Social media is capturing the time, the attention, and even the souls of our children. Adults appear to have similar struggles. Far too many mishandle social media. Much of what happens in online communication dishonors the Lord, taints our witness to the unbelieving world, and gives place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27). Galatians 5:15 warns, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!“
Social media can be a powerful platform for global evangelism. It is a venue, which can glorify God, edify the saints, and convict the lost. However, there are certain personal, church, and ministry communications that should not be shared on social media. It is not the best venue for these important exchanges. Much of what is published on social media would be better handled in a private setting. Social media has helped to blur the lines between appropriate public and private interactions.
The Holy Scriptures, on the other hand, bring light and clarity. They are sufficient for all of life, faith, and practice. It is there we discover God’s standards for communication. The time has come for Christians to reconsider their interactions through social media. With full assurance in the sufficiency of Scripture, Operation Save America challenges Christians to serious self-examination concerning our conduct by means of Facebook and other social media sites (Psalm 26:2; Galatians 6:4).
With that in mind, OSA submits the following for all Christians to consider before God.
Whereas, we live in a day where critical thinking is diminishing, we must guard against emotional driven responses in our consumerist and media saturated culture…
Whereas, we are a culture that spends large segments of our time on social media…
Whereas, many relationships are conceived, nurtured, and sustained entirely through social media…
Whereas, written language, especially internet slang, can create an informal and hasty conversation, we are prone to misinterpret emotion, demeanor, body language, and other communicative nuances that are not discernible through social media…
Whereas, people tend to have a sudden sense of “courage” when sitting in their home in front of their computers and write things they would never say face to face, normal, Biblical and decent principles of respectful communication are ignored…
Whereas our Christian testimony and witness is precious, we ought not to taint it frivolously or callously via social media…
Whereas, we are called to love the brethren and “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) before the watching world, we ought to guard our conduct, attitudes and comments on social media…
Whereas, our Lord has told us that we will all give account on the day of judgment for every idle word we have spoken…
Communicate clearly. Ask questions, listen, and explain yourself clearly. When you are communicating information, be careful to define your terms. Make sure your audience understands what you’re trying to say by the words you are using. If debates get heated, avoid ad hominem attacks. Do not resort to calling people, especially brethren, derogatory names.
When it’s your turn to receive information, don’t neglect to ask questions in order to understand the writer. Don’t be presumptuous. Take time to assess the other person’s understanding of the subject matter, terminology etc… Many communication problems arise when we assume our listeners understand “where we are coming from.” More often than not they do not. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19).
Be careful. Approach controversial subjects with caution. How much trouble is stirred by a flippant attitude towards important subjects? How often do we say things or others say things to us that we would never communicate face to face? Avoid being flippant while posting on important subject matters. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2).
Don’t post anything controversial if you are in a hurry. As the old military saying goes, “Undo haste makes waste.”
Pray before you post anything controversial. This is all the more important if you consider your posting as a ministry to others. “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Define your terms. This bears repeating. The majority of online disagreements involve both sides talking past each other as neither attempts to understand what the other actually means.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t attack or embarrass a brother or sister if you can deal with your differences privately. More often than not, our comments can be better handled in a private setting. Don’t let pride motivate you to uncover a brother or sister unnecessarily in public discourse. “Hatred stirs up strife: but love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12).
Go the extra mile to communicate humbly and graciously. Before hitting send, reread your post from the other person’s perspective to see if genuine humility comes across. It is important we avoid coming across like an arrogant know it all. Remember, “God resists the proud but gives grace unto the humble” (I Peter 5:5).
Give the benefit of the doubt to the writer rather than to assume the worst in intentions. Just as we have all had others misinterpret our tone and intention, we have to be careful not to do the same to others. Assume the best and give grace, until proven otherwise. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
If you are getting angry and irritated, STOP. Save your work. Revisit it later. You may find you don’t even want or need to respond. Perhaps someone else has communicated better or the writer clarified their comments. You may find they weren’t saying what you thought they were saying to begin with. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians. 4:6).
Don’t drown your seed. Allow time for the seed-planting process to work. Once you’ve made a strong point, let it settle. If it is initially resisted, do not bow up and try to force feed the seed or drown it with a water hose. Let the truth settle and relax. Folks may resist outwardly while inwardly chew on and wrestle with what you have already stated. Give time for the Holy Spirit to affirm the truth of God’s Word. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7).
Weigh criticisms before you respond. There is often at least some merit in many criticisms. If God can rebuke a wayward prophet by a donkey, he can even use our enemies to reveal our sins and character flaws. Take time to receive and consider them before the Lord. It is important to resist a knee-jerk defensive response. It only serves to pour more fuel on the fire. “He that refuses instruction despises his own soul: but he that hears reproof gains understanding.” (Proverbs 15:32)
Private message personal communications or corrections. If or when a clash begins, your first instinct should be to private message rather than to engage in public debate. Check your pride at the door and take personal issues with brethren into a private arena. God’s Word is clear, “Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
In a discussion turned argument stop and ask yourself if you are just trying to win the argument or are you trying to win the person. Check your heart early and often in the discussion. Philippians 2:3 remind us, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
If we do the above, social media can be a great tool for exalting Christ, communicating truth, touching hearts, and changing minds. If we don’t, we risk dishonoring our Lord, tainting our witness, sowing seeds of discord, and giving place to the devil.
Just as much as God hates the hands that shed innocent blood, he also hates those who sow discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). We must not allow our common adversary to separate, divide, and conquer the brethren. When it comes to social media, as with all relationships, Augustine stated a good proposition, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” This is a good rule of thumb to remember as we communicate on social media.
Scripture Passages Concerning Communications.
Though these passages are not exhaustive, they do grant some revelation on what God thinks about the importance of human communications.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:14).
“You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue” (Psalms 52:4).
“All day they twist my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil” (Psalms 56:5).
“For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips, Let them even be taken in their pride, and for the cursing and lying which they speak” (Psalms 59:12).
“Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, And bend their bows to shoot their arrows-bitter words” (Psalms 64:3).
“Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
“For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool’s voice is known by his many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3).
“For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).
“You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth” (Proverbs 6:2).
“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).
“A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of 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).
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14).
“For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2).
“Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; Cause me to understand wherein I have erred” (Job 6:24).
“My lips will not speak wickedness, Nor my tongue utter deceit” (Job 27:4).
“Who have said, ‘With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us’” (Psalms 12:4).
“He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend” (Psalms 15:3).
“Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit” (Psalms 34:13).
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).
“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).
“Their tongue is an arrow shot out; It speaks deceit; One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart he lies in wait” (Jeremiah 9:8).
“Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips” (Romans 3:13).
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” (James 1:26).
“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5, 6, 8).
“With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9, 10).
“For He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3:10).
“Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18).
“And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13).
“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” (Proverbs 26:20).
“Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).