How Are You Behaving Online?
I’ve been saddened recently by the behaviour of some Christians online. It doesn’t matter whether they are politically to the left or right, the level of vitriol against one another has been quite shocking.
And it’s made me question not only what I post on social media but, just as important, how I speak. Indeed, I had to personally apologise to another colleague recently for the intense manner in which I spoke. It wasn’t so much that I was wrong in content, but I definitely wasn’t loving or gracious in delivering it.
The Lord Jesus Christ warns us in Luke’s gospel:
‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops’ (Luke 12:1b-3).
How would our speech change if we knew that everything we said was screenshotted and held up for the world to see? Would we blush with embarrassment? We have all said and done things at times which we would hate for anyone else to hear or see. Which is all the more reason why we as forgiven sinners should seek to honour Christ in how we behave online.
For our Saviour and Lord is described in the book of Revelation as one who has eyes of blazing fire—meaning that He sees and knows everything—as well as feet of burnished bronze—meaning that He always does what is pure and righteous. Are we not then called to holy as He is holy? (1 Pet. 1:16; Heb. 12:14)
I’ll never forget, David Cook, a former Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, once relaying in a sermon the popular saying which says that we should T.H.I.N.K before we speak:
T – is it True?
H – is it Helpful?
I – is it Inspiring?
N – is it Necessary?
K – is it Kind?
An especially pertinent passage in this regard are the apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29-5:1. It’s worth slowing down and considering the ‘logical flow’ of the entire passage:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
There is so much to unpack from this passage that maybe it’s best to summarise what it is saying with a series of questions:
- Is what I’m saying building others up, or simply making me look good or feel better about myself? (v. 29)
- Is my speech honouring Christ or is it actually grieving the Holy Spirit? (v. 30)
- Is my attitude consistently characterised by bitterness, rage, anger etc…? (v. 31)
- Am I demonstrating kindness, compassion and most of all forgiveness, or are these considerations which I’m not concerned with at all? (v. 32)
- Am I imitating Christ, modelling love and ultimately reflecting His Gospel message? (5:1)
When it comes to conversing online—or especially in person—then these are all questions which would be good to keep on asking ourselves. And even more than that, to ask our Heavenly Father to grow and develop within us.
There is an unbelieving world out there listening to everything we say. So, let’s ‘think’ more before we speak, especially online, where what we do can be captured and re-produced forever. As the saying goes, the internet never forgets! Let us be people then who speak words which build others up rather than tear them down, and may our behaviour online bring Jesus glory and honour and praise!
- Mark Powell