It’s a jungle out there! The world of social media and online communication, something we’re all using during these pandemic days, is not for the faint of heart. If you are like me, you’ve run into more than your fair share of stories that turn out to be false or that you believe to be true and cause genuine outrage. It’s really tough to sift the wheat from the chaff, right? With a presidential election coming soon, we can expect the situation to become even more highly charged, divisive, and outrageous.
As Christians, and as members of NCWA, what’s our responsibility? I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, and maybe you have as well, given the time many of us are spending online these days.
NCWA’s mission is to “seek to glorify God through our personal lives and in our writing for both the Christian market and the general market,” according to our website. It seems timely to think about how we use social media, and even more importantly, how would Jesus use it? How does Jesus use it, through me and through you? We have the power to encourage others, draw others closer to Christ, and to turn others away.
Looking to Jesus, our “Way, truth, and life” (John 14:6) as an example, I believe we can stand as beacons of light during this polarizing time in our society.
The Way of Jesus is gentle and humble in heart, and a “gentle answer turns away wrath” (Matthew 11:29 and Proverbs 15:1-2). Jesus was compassionate on “harassed and helpless crowds (Matthew 9:36). In Colossians 4:5-6, we are advised to let our conversation “be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 3:12 talks about the importance of love, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Do we view our online, “anonymous” readers on social media with the same love and humility we would if we were standing face to face? It’s very difficult! I called someone’s post “absurd and ridiculous” recently and instantly regretted it. I would never say that to someone’s face, especially someone I don’t know. It’s so easy to forget to use humility and grace in the relative anonymity of the online community. Yet, these readers are our “mission field”—people we have an opportunity to love as Jesus loves, even when we disagree with them—maybe especially when we disagree with them!
How do we share Jesus’ Truth? Titus 2:7 says, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” Do we check the integrity and soundness of posts that we share? Do we make sure that something that sounds too outrageous to be true actually is true, before hitting “send”?
Jesus is Life. In John 6:48, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Do our posts and shares communicate this precious life, or do the divisive words, attitudes, and polarizations that we are sharing, no matter how righteous we believe our position to be, preclude us from listening to others’ pain and prevent our readers from hearing that we love them and have the gift of life for them?
People are hurting. People are outraged. People are lonely. People need Jesus more than ever. I am reminded that Jesus saved his harshest words for people within the religious community, and that makes me tremble. I want my words, whether on paper or a computer screen, shared posts or original, to reflect Jesus’ Way, Truth, and Life.
If you are interested in more on this topic, please see Scott Sauls’ new book, A Gentle Answer: Our “Secret Weapon” in an Age of Us Against Them (HarperCollins, 2020).
Sonja Anderson, NCWA vice president, writes children’s literature from Burien, WA and lives with her husband and two daughters. She works full time in a local elementary school library where she feels like a spy, learning about all the newly-published books and seeing what books kids love. Find out more at www.sonjaandersonbooks.com.