It is no secret that this is the age of too much information. Cell phones, smart phones, texting, tweeting, and other sources of social media have erased the need to announce the news. Major networks no longer have time to formulate how to present the news to a watching world. Instead, at best they frantically try to capture the latest news first, but in most cases they find themselves commenting on news that everyone knows already and then filling in the air time with intentional shaping of the news to the particular agenda of the corporation.
Not only is the plethora of public information out of control like a bull in a china shop, even in our personal lives we can find ourselves drowning in the never-ending waves of insignificant information that we process daily. Whether we wake up to find out who had pancakes for breakfast or end the day checking out the latest trends on Pinterest, we are constantly processing information and deciding where to put it in our mental media file cabinets.
This barrage of information also creates a spiritual dilemma for the believer in Jesus Christ. As God’s children, we have a divine responsibility to respond properly to what comes to us in any given day or relationship. The Bible makes it clear that we are to love one another, exhort one another, pray for one another, forgive one another. We are not to criticize one another, nor are we to ignore sin in a fellow believer’s life. Before the social media take-over, the living out of our Christian lives happened in the context of rubbing shoulders with one another and talking face to face. We learned of each other’s struggles while conversing in the church foyer or talking on the phone. We could read a friend’s body language or see the pain in their eyes. If we were discouraged or unhappy about a life circumstance, it was shared in person with the opportunity for response to the individual alone. If we became aware of a believer’s sinful behavior, it was because we had a literal conversation with that believer or with a fellow Christian who was lovingly concerned.
Social media has changed all of this, and not for the better. With the majority of life’s issues being shared to a generally unidentified audience at any given time, the context of face to face conversation and response is disappearing. We no longer need to share a spiritual need at church. We can just post it on Facebook. If we are unhappy about a life circumstance, we can complain about it to everyone and yet to no one in particular and not feel that we are sinning by being discontent. If we are entertaining unbiblical thoughts or participating in questionable behavior, we can let everyone know without actually telling anyone in person, thus creating the illusion that we have no responsibility for our actions.
So what about the recipients of this unsolicited information? What responsibility does the believer in Jesus Christ need to accept towards social media? Can Facebook cause me to sin? The answer is not an easy one to determine. Essentially, no social media can cause sin. Sin originates in the soul of each person. The human nature we possess, along with the temptations of the devil, cause us to sin. No outside entity can erase that responsibility. However, if reading the comments of others brings to my mind attitudes of criticism, anger, or other negative thoughts, the Bible is clear that I am responsible to remove myself from the bait that Satan may be using to cause me to sin. If I was not angry before I logged on to Facebook, and now I am angry after reading Facebook, Facebook has not caused me to sin. I have chosen to sin out of my own evil nature. However, if social media is the tool used by Satan to cause me to trip up personally, I had best remove myself from the lure that is taking me into a sinful choice I want to avoid.
Not only does the believer face the dilemma of personal responses to social media, the church now faces a dilemma of a different nature. Matthew 18: 15-17 and Galatians 6: 1-3, along with other Biblical passages, contain specific direction as to how God intends sin to be dealt with. One element in these verses is unmistakably clear. Sin is to be confronted face to face, in the context of relationship. Matthew 18 states that the initial conversation regarding an offense is to happen in a private, one-to-one context, brother-to-brother. If the sin/offense is not resolved privately, two or three others are brought into the process. If this does not effectively care for the matter, then the leadership becomes involved. Social media has created a nightmare scenario for the church. The anonymity of posting our personal lives on a computer screen for anyone to see but no one to be accountable for has all but eliminated the opportunity for Biblical confrontation to occur. Now, before any one individual can become aware of a sinful trend in a friend’s life, everyone knows, even those who do not need to know. The information cannot be handled in a Biblical manner because everyone is now privy to the information and all the inaccurate judgments and responses that come with it. Church leaders can find themselves scrambling to get a handle on a situation that 24 hours ago was completely private and now is public information to all who care to see. Again, did social media cause this sin? No. However, the tools are readily available for people to disobey the instructions of God in this matter. And all too often we forego the right way of doing something for the easy way. We cannot let social media keep the church from handling sin the way God intends for it to be handled. We must determine to maintain control of how the church responds to people both individually and publicly as a body of Christ if we desire to achieve the proper results of confession and restoration.
So what is the answer? Do we remove ourselves from social media all together? No, the source of the sin is not there. The sin comes from within. Some may choose to not participate in social media for good reasons. There is nothing wrong with that. For those who choose to use social media, we must consider that point at which social media become the bait, the lure from Satan that takes us down a path into sin so fast that we did not realize it. Are you angry after reading your social media? Recognize the source of the anger within, but remove the stimulant of the anger also. Are you learning of another’s sinful behavior through social media? Don’t give in to the temptation to forego the Scriptural principles on dealing with sin. Insist on individual personal confrontation and accountability. Take control of the process so that discipline or restoration can be carried out properly. Satan would love nothing more than to ruin the church through the means of social media. Let’s not give him the chance.