Can You Love People on Social Media?
February 4, 2004 was a very significant day in the world.
It was the day that Facebook was created. Whether you love it or not, Facebook was a catalyst for the online “social media” movement. There are now 1.6 billion active users on Facebook, which is nearly one quarter of the world’s population. Along with Facebook, there are several other social media outlets that have massive followings as well. I say all of that to point out two obvious conclusions. First, literally billions of people have decided they want to connect with other people around the world via social media. Second, it shows that people want to be heard and engage in dialogue with the rest of the world (or at least the hundred people that follow them). But what should our dialogue look like?
Jesus said in Matthew 5:43, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.”
We will applaud people who think like us while rebuking those who don’t think like us. If nothing else, this recent election cycle has shown us this very fact. And if Jesus’ words ended with verse 43, we would give a hearty “Amen!” We group together with people who think, talk, or look the same way we do, while rallying against those who think or believe something different. But Jesus’ words do not end with verse 43.
He goes on to say,
You have heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you will become children of your Father in heaven, because he makes his sun rise on both evil and good people, and he lets rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you greet only your relatives, that’s no great thing you’re doing, is it? Even the unbelievers do the same, don’t they?
– Matthew 5:43-47
When we (Christ followers) show love to those who think, talk, or look the same way as us, what good have we really done? Jesus’ answer is, nothing. Rather, what if we spoke to those who held different beliefs as us with grace and truth? What if our biggest opportunity to represent Jesus was not by getting our point across, but by laying down our pride and considering others as better than ourselves? That is the transforming power of the gospel.
So, as you post on social media, do not forget Jesus’ life and words, and remember that your witness is worth more than your opinion. In his book, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, Russell Moore says, “We must see even our most passionate critic not as an argument to be vaporized but as a neighbor to be evangelized.” If this is true, what might need to change in our interactions online? How can we rightly honor God on social media?
Here are four ways from 1 Peter 3:8-16.
- Be Compassionate and Humble. Everyone is an “expert” on social media. No matter the topic, we love stating our opinions as facts, because we are always right, and they are always wrong. Rather, think about social media as an opportunity to learn from those who are different than you. Follow people on Twitter who look and talk different than you. Engage with people who think different than you on matters of faith. Learn from them, and in all of it, be humble and compassionate (3:8)
- Say Nothing at All. This should probably be said first, but many of us need to practice the art of not saying anything at all. It is easier to lose your gospel witness by what you post on social media than it is to gain credibility as a Christ follower for what you say. Think about it…does the “share if you truly love Jesus” post help or hurt your witness more? When in doubt, don’t post (3:10)
- Seek Peace. As Christians, we feel sorry for ourselves because we don’t think that we deserve “hate” from the rest of the world. So, we get defensive and look for ways to argue or tear other people down. Instead, look for ways to do good and pray for those who want to cause division or harm. Seek peace with everyone. (3:11-13)
- Exalt Jesus as Lord. Social media is a platform. Whether you have ten or ten thousand followers, you have an opportunity to promote and even champion all sorts of social issues. As Christ followers, we should stand for the issues that align with Scripture, on and off social media. And in doing so, let us champion our greatest cause, to exalt Christ by giving a reason for the hope that is within us. (3:15-16)
 Philippians 2:3
 Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, 197