In a world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more of our communications with family, friends, and others are happening online, including our political discourse. With more of our speech happening through social media, we need to evaluate our social media “speech” in light of God’s Word.
With the 2020 election fast approaching, the number of political posts on Facebook and other social media platforms increases day by day, with each side posting things in condemnation of the other. As Christians, we have a responsibility to engage politically on social media in a way that is glorifying and honoring to God. But what does this mean? As Christians, how does the command to love our neighbors affect how we use social media?
Speak the Truth, Even When It’s Unpopular
One way of loving our neighbors is to speak the truth in love. With both candidates appealing to Scripture and claiming that it supports their policy proposals, the question of Christian faithfulness is at the forefront of this upcoming presidential election. Because only 6 percent of Americans hold a biblical worldview, many are unsure which candidate is more in line with God’s Word. As God’s ambassadors, we must be true to his message and be faithful in proclaiming it in a way that reflects His character.
This means not shying away from posting controversial or unpopular things on social media. We must be bold in our affirmation that the Lord’s statutes are good, holy, and just. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Not only must we not be ashamed of the reality that we are all sinners who can only be saved through belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection, but we also must not be ashamed of anything that God’s Word says is true, including His teachings that are unpopular in our culture. In a society that is increasingly hostile to the truths of God’s Word, we must be bolder than ever both online and in person.
Verify Your Sources
The need to speak the truth offers another guideline as to what we should post on social media. We live in an age of disinformation where it is harder than ever to discern fact from fiction. We must humbly recognize the limitedness of our intellect, acknowledge the possibility that we could be deceived by false information and try to protect ourselves from falling victim to this.
Before posting or resharing something on social media that makes a factual claim, it is wise to double check the source. If it is not a reputable source, it needs to be vetted. What is the source’s background? Do they have reliable information and connections that would bolster the veracity of their claims? Do they have expertise? If not, avoid sharing. As Paul wrote in his letter to Titus, Christians must have “soundness of speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:8). This means that our speech, including the posts we share and claims we make on our social media platforms, must be based on valid reason and good judgment.
Speaking the truth in love also means that we must be respectful of those with whom we disagree. In 2020, it seems like there is more to disagree on than ever before. Not only is there disagreement between the two main political parties and between the church and the secular culture, but there is also disagreement within the church itself —on everything from wearing masks to what political and moral issues are most important. Despite our ideological differences, we must show grace and love to those who disagree with us —even if they are not showing grace and love towards us.
Very practically, this means that we should refrain from writing or sharing inflammatory posts about someone else or responding in anger to people online. We can and should attack false and evil ideas, but we must not attack the people deceived by them. As James explains, “with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10). Before posting something on social media, ask yourself whether you are being respectful towards those who think differently than you, whether they be your fellow Christian or a non-believer.
Even if other professing Christians and those we agree with politically are not following these principles, Christians have a responsibility to follow what God’s Word says. As Martin Luther said, “Be careful not to measure your holiness by other people’s sins.”
“Full of Grace, Seasoned With Salt”
In today’s world, we have many opportunities to interact with non-believers and share the truths of the Bible quickly through the internet and social media. However, we need to make sure that our use of these tools does not cause more harm than good. Before posting something on social media we need to ask ourselves: “Would posting this damage my witness to my friends, family, and coworkers who follow me?” As Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, “Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:5-6). Just as we pray for wisdom and discernment in our interactions with people in person, we need to pray and let God lead us in how we should present ourselves and communicate with others online.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that our chief goal is not to convince people we are right or persuade others of our position; our chief goal is to glorify God. While speaking the truth is no doubt a part of how we glorify God, the way we speak that truth and the way we speak towards others and about others is equally important. Brothers and sisters, in this election, let us speak the truth loudly and lovingly.
Claire Gatzke is a Policy & Government Affairs intern focusing on biblical worldview.