As Paul closes his letter to the Philippian church, he issues this exhortation:
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
With this verse as an inspiration, one could write an entire series of posts on Christians and social media use. What we focus on impacts our outlook and behavior, and it colors how people perceive the gospel message. So this passage is an excellent place to start when considering your social media use—but for this post, we’re going to zero in on "whatever is true."
Putting away falsehood
When we enter into a relationship with Christ, we begin to be transformed. But it's not just something that happens passively. We have a responsibility to continually shed ideas and behaviors that don’t align with this reality. Paul calls this "putting off your old self." Paul tells the church in Ephesus that to experience new attitudes, they have to put off their old corruption. And then he follows that up with this gem:
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body" (Ephesians 4:25).
Of all the possible examples Paul could give of putting off our old selves, it's noteworthy that he'd focus on falsehood. But it makes sense because, at its core, life in the kingdom is about being aligned with the truth. The truth that God is real, and He cares about us. The truth that Jesus is who He claimed to be and died for us. And the truth that salvation only comes through the name of Jesus.
When we understand that, it becomes evident that our integrity matters. If we play fast and loose with the truth, it undermines the confidence people have in us when we talk about things of eternal significance. Convincing someone that Jesus loves them is a lot more difficult when your credibility is shot.
That's why it's crucial that we're mindful of the way we use social media.
Navigating meme culture
There's an interesting quote often attributed to Mark Twain which says, "A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on." If this was true in the early 20th century, it's doubly true today.
According to a recent study on digital media, the average person spends two hours, 22 minutes on social media. So much of our lives are integrated with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The stuff that gets shared shapes people's understanding of current events and the world around them. This has been a blessing in so many ways. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks is that anyone can share anything, and conspiracy theories and untruth have incredible staying power.
The problem isn't just the proliferation of pseudo-news and questionable facts. We're also bombarded with memes, which reduce complex issues into bite-size, and often dismissive commentary on the world around us. The truth isn't only damaged by lies, but also by a refusal to recognize the intricacies of many contemporary issues.
Taking responsibility for our communication
We must take responsibility for the stuff that we share on social media because it ultimately reveals or diminishes the beauty of the gospel. When we share untrue things, people perceive us as untrustworthy—even if we don't realize the stuff we shared wasn't entirely accurate.
So we need to keep a few things in mind:
- The time to fact check stuff is before we share it:
Social media feeds into a knee-jerk reactionary response. We see something that we agree with or that annoys us, and our first impulse is to share it—especially if it aligns with our perspective or ideology. We owe it to ourselves to take a step back and check sources and ensure its validity before passing it on. Even if we delete a post after we realize it's not accurate, some damage is already done.
- We need to stay humble and teachable:
We're not always going to get it right, so we need to remain humble. Everyone makes mistakes. What separates us is our willingness to learn from our mistakes, take the right actions, and move forward. So if someone points out that something you shared isn't accurate, resist the urge to dig in and refuse to budge. Double-check its validity and act accordingly.
- Put the gospel first:
There are so many issues and causes that need Christian champions, but we can't afford to interact in a way that takes the shine off the gospel. So we need to keep in mind how the tone and content of our social media content impacts our credibility as communicators of the good news. Nothing can revolutionize what we share more than simply asking ourselves, "Does this have the potential to impact my believability and credibility when it comes to discussing Jesus's love and sacrifice?"
We're all missionaries
We can't forget that we've been commissioned for kingdom work. We're to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:16–20). And how we perform in other areas can have an impact on our effectiveness. So it might seem like a lot of extra work to ensure that what we share online is factual, but our allegiance is to Jesus and His message. Let's take Paul's words to heart by focusing on whatever is true.
If you're interested in discovering more about your call in the Great Commission, download a free copy of We Are All Missionaries. This study curriculum will encourage you to reach out to the people around with the gospel. It's perfect for small groups and self-study.