Growing in holiness as we use social media

9/6/2016

GROWING IN GRACE
BEN GOSDEN


Social media - it’s the double-edged sword of our time. It’s great because it lets us connect with others. It’s a way to keep up with old friends and even make new ones. It’s a powerful tool for communication. But as Spiderman reminds us, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If we’re being honest, social media is also a source for a lot of meanness, ugliness, and hurt – even if it’s all masked with “well, that’s my opinion” or “it’s my freedom of speech.” 

I think John Wesley was on to something when he came up with his Three General Rules: 1) Do no harm. 2) Do good. 3) Attend to the ordinances of God. 

What if these rules were not only appropriate for the ways we live our daily lives, but also the ways we use social media? Think about it: what if we all asked ourselves these three questions every time we posted something on Facebook, commented on someone else’s post, or “liked” something?

For example:

Do no harm

How do the thing we post on social media bring harm to others? 

Do we say mean things about other people? I mention the political season because some of the meanest things you’ll read on social media have been posted by Christians. It doesn’t matter if it’s by a democrat or a republican, meanness apparently has no particular political flavor. 

As Methodists we are living in some exciting and maybe even scary times. Change is on the horizon. But as we live with the excitement and fear, we need to be careful not to let it get the best of us and lead us to post irresponsible and mean things about our denomination, our bishops, other clergy, other local churches, or people we don’t agree with. We’re connectional by nature, for God’s sake. Surely our social media use should not bring harm to that connectional spirit.

Do good

I like this question even better – how can the things we post on social media bring a little good into the world? 

Lord knows we get inundated with bad stuff – depressing news, meanness, hatred, and vitriol. How could we bring a little light into a dark world through social media? Maybe you could share an encouraging word. How about posting something on someone’s wall who might be struggling (be careful of confidentiality)? Maybe we could commit ourselves to sharing good news through the things we post, share, and “like.”

Attend to the ordinances of God

Bishop Rueben Job rephrased this as, “Stay in love with God.” How can our social media use point others to our love for God? How can the stuff we post, like, and share help others grow in their love for God?

Thomas Merton once wrote, “Our life should simply be a window through which God’s mercy shines on the world.” Our social media use is public. People read it – the good, the bad, and even the really ugly stuff. How do the things we engage in through social media serve as a window for God’s mercy to shine? People are watching. They’re reading what we write. We all long for a little more mercy and a little less ugliness and judgment. How are you being a disciple of Jesus through social media?

The Rev. Ben Gosden is the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Savannah. He can be reached at bgosden1982@gmail.com