Brothers and Sisters,
In this past Sunday’s sermon on the ninth commandment, we took some time to consider the words we share on social media. By way of follow up, I thought I’d offer a few questions to help us ensure we’re walking in wisdom as we engage online.*
*I think you’ll find that, with just a little adjustment, these questions would be helpful to ask before speaking up offline, as well.
1.Is what I’m about to say or share true?
As those who have been set free and sanctified in and by the Truth (John 8:31-38; 17:17), we are called to eschew falsehood. The most basic question we can ask ourselves, then, is whether what we’re about to share is true. This may seem too simple to say, but it’s far too easy for us to share articles and videos that, unbeknownst to us, trade in falsehood. If we don’t know the information is reliable, then it’s better to pass that to unknowingly propagate lies.
2. Is it “injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name?”
As we discussed, the ninth commandment isn’t just about safeguarding the truth; it’s about protecting our neighbor’s reputation. When we post about others online, we can very easily drag their name through the mud. Honest criticism of public persons is fair game, but we always have to ask ourselves whether we’re engaging in mockery or slander. Are we tearing people down for our own pleasure, or are we speaking carefully for the sake of truth?
3. Will it edify others?
Speaking of tearing down, Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “let no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (emphasis mine). Our true words ought to convey grace, even if it comes on the other side of critique. In those cases, we have to ask what our words will accomplish. We can tear down arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God, but we ought not to forget the purpose of our tearing-down: to take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:4-5). If we’re not helping folks to see and walk in the truth, then our words are more the ventings of a critical spirit than gifts of light and grace.
4. Will it open doors or close them?
In its early days, people likened social media to a massive cocktail party in which people of all walks could engage one another in conversation. Today, much of what you read online is intended to shut down conversation rather than promote it. If you’re speaking to anything even remotely controversial, ask yourself whether your words produce dialogue or inhibit it. It may feel good to share a “sick burn,” but it’s better to provoke interaction than to slay your “opponents.” We want to draw people toward the truth—not push them away.
5. Does it need to be said?
The hardest of all questions, and the one that has led me to delete many a tweet and post. This may be hard for many of us to hear (myself very much included), but the world doesn’t need us to weigh in on every topic that comes up for discussion. If we don’t have anything true and useful to add, then it’s probably best if we just keep our peace.
That’s all I’ve got for today. Like I said, these aren’t the only questions we could ask. I’m sure we could come up with several more. Nevertheless, I’ve found these to be helpful. It’s when I ignore one or more of these that I end up with my foot in my mouth online (and off).
I’m praying for us all this week, that we would be a people who bear true testimony in our thoughts, words, and actions—whether that’s online or in the real world. May the One who is called Faithful and True support us in this and all else.