As Christians, we can use our time in the digital world to model Christ to others.
You’ve read the social media posts before; maybe you’ve made a few yourself. The ones that make you cringe, that make you angry, hurt, sad, depressed, or simply numb. By the way some “Christians” post online, you might think they don’t realize there is a real person somewhere in the world, reading and contemplating their potentially destructive words.
God asks us to be “Christ’s ambassadors,” and He makes His “appeal through us” (2Cor. 5:20, NIV). Everything we do is supposed to be for “the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), yet it seems many forget God’s commands when they post in reaction to what they see and read on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other media platforms.
Every encounter we have with one another matters. As humans, we put an incredibly high value on words and experiences. A single word misused or misplaced can end a relationship. A solitary experience can make us lifelong friends.
Relationship experts have found happily married couples and high-performing business teams often make “five positive comments for every negative one.”1 In other words, the messages we provide to one another accumulate quickly. When we apply this principle to evangelism and our faith journeys, it indicates every interaction we have comes with the potential to bring someone closer to Christ or push them further away.2
Recently, a large non-profit Christian organization posted a short news story that included a transcript of U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black’s prayer the day after January 6, 2021, protest events at the U.S. Capitol. The rancor-filled comments from those claiming to be Christians to other Christians in the comments section caused one observer to remark (in so many words), “Christians scare me to death!” — except they used stronger language. Another commented, “I am certain Jesus weeps today seeing the vile hatred directed at each other in many of the comments on this post, by His ‘followers.’ Shameful.… I am distraught at seeing ‘believers’ (clearly in name only) tear each other down … rather than focusing on ministering through the Word.”
As Christians, through each and every encounter, we can use our time in the digital world to model Christ to others. The idea of a Christian digital evangelist should not be underestimated. Nearly four billion people use social media every day, and in the U.S., the average person spends just over two hours of every 24 on social media.3 There’s no reason to complain about not having opportunities to share our faith when we can access someone’s attention so readily and predictably.
How we share that faith responsibly in the digital world is of importance. As digital strategist Jamie Domm writes, “Social media can be a powerful witnessing tool; remember that your posts can have a greater impact and reach than you realize.”4 Domm encourages Christians to remember Christ’s Golden Rule (see Luke 6:31) by avoiding gossip, conflict, mean-spirited or mocking or shaming comments, and bullying.
When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ … And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matt. 22:37-39, NIV). It seems so simple. We hear and quote this on a routine basis. Yet, on social media, at least, it appears to be one of the hardest commandments to keep.
What’s the answer to our shortcomings and the negativity, hate speech, and divisiveness so commonly found on social media? By seeking and allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us with His fruit on a daily basis. By personifying “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23, NLT), we can all be digital disciples.
1. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, “The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio,” Harvard Business Review, March 15, 2013.
2. Lorna Brown, “Loving God’s Kids,” Canadian Adventist Messenger, August 1998.
3. Gary Henderson, “How Much Time Does the Average Person Spend on Social Media?” Digital Marketing Blog, August 14, 2020; accessed at www.digitalmarketing.org.
4. Jamie Domm, “Personal Social Media Audit: Questions to Ask Yourself,” NAD Social Media + Big Data Services: https://www.sdadata.org/uploads/8/1/9/8/81986746/socialmediaaudit_booklet.pdf.