The Main Thing
Welcome to the second article of a series entitled, The Main Thing. This series of articles is designed to encourage Christians in general, and ministers in particular on how we can have a more positive impact on social media. There is a large amount of negativity that exists on social web sites like Facebook and Twitter, and the addition of the election season has only added to the trouble. These articles are designed to remind us all that we have a responsibility to reach people for Christ, and to focus on the main thing in preaching the Gospel of Jesus. We must not forget that we can preach the Gospel in all things, even in political conversations, and discussions about current events and social issues.
I would encourage you to read last week’s article entitled, Determine the Purpose, if you haven’t done so already. This week’s article is entitled, Stop Complaining, and addresses the tone of our messages. Let’s take a look at how this simple practice can have a world of impact.
If we turn on the news today, we will quickly become discouraged. Wars are constantly raging across the globe. Terrorists threaten the way of life for people on every continent. One day the economy looks strong, and then the next day it collapses. There are daily stories of children being kidnapped, grocery stores being robbed, and diseases being spread. Athletes, movie stars, and political leaders are continually surrounded by scandal. Our nation seems embroiled in race wars, class wars, and income wars. Everywhere we look, things seem hopeless, and a majority of social media posts reflect that hopelessness. People are communicating through numerous social websites today, and in record numbers. Social feeds that were once filled with pictures of food are now peppered with negative political memes. Twitter feeds that updated followers about a family vacation are now filled with condemnation, anger, and vitriol. With the way things are today, it’s easy to succumb to negativity. As ambassadors of Christ, we don’t have the luxury to follow suit.
Unfortunately, human nature tends to be negative. Because of this fact, we can look at the list of bestselling books to see that many are written to teach people how to be positive. Books such as The Power of Positive Thinking, and Think Positive are among the many. As a society we have many books that teach us how to be positive, but we rarely find books that teach us how to be negative. Perhaps it’s because we already know how to do that without any help. While it’s easier to focus on what’s wrong with the world today, we must not give in to our sinful nature of negativity as we communicate on social media. We have been called to be salt and light to this lost world. As followers of Jesus and communicators of His message, we are to resemble Christ on the boat in the midst of the storm. With dangerous winds and waves surrounding Him, Jesus remained at peace, and encouraged His disciples to do the same. He said, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”[i] We have the responsibility of doing the same thing on Facebook and Twitter that Jesus did on the water. In the midst of the world’s storms we must push back on fear and embrace faith. A great starting point on this journey is to put an end to the negativity and complaining.
Paul wrote in Philippians, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”[ii] This is often easier said than done. We all understand there is corruption within our economic and political systems, and we are all frustrated by it. We all witness racism and violence on a frequent basis, and we are all saddened by it. The path of least resistance is to join the crowd in voicing frustrations with the social media platform we’ve been given. However, instead of attacking the people involved, we should highlight the people who are doing positive something about it. Even better, we can and should do something positive about it ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we are to ignore corruption and injustice. It is certainly our duty to take action. However, it does mean that we can and should change our tone and our perspective. Let me give you an example.
As the United States recently competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, a number of athletes were caught on camera vandalizing a local convenience store, and lying about it to the press. While such an event is heinous and embarrassing, the last thing that is needed, is to add to the criticism with our own social media posts. We can and should rise above the world’s response, and use the opportunity to preach grace and mercy. Let the courts and the law enforcement do their job, as Christians let’s do ours. The book of Galatians states, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”[iii] If this is too big of a step to take, then we can at least consider the words of our mothers in that if we don’t have anything nice to say, we shouldn’t say anything at all. Better yet, we can find something nice to say, and say that instead. In this instance we could instead share our voice on social media about how Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolt, broke a number of world and Olympic records. What the athletes did in vandalizing and lying was wrong. We should all teach the next generation about honesty, sportsmanship, patriotism, and respect, but we can accomplish this without verbally bashing those who have failed.
The same lesson can be applied to the current political and social issues of our day. Rather than posting hateful things about politicians we don’t agree with, we could post positive things about the ones we support. Better yet, we could share with our audiences the ideas that we hold dear. The ideas will far out last the personalities. Those within our spheres of influence are more apt to listen to us, and engage us, if and when we foster dialogue about timeless ideals such as liberty, equality, and justice. We will have the opposite effect on our audiences if we take the more common route of posting links to shocking documentaries and editorials about the offenders of these ideals.
The enemy wants to divide us. He wants to divide our homes, our churches and our nation. He’ll try to divide us by doctrine, race, income level, and political affiliation. Both Jesus and Abraham Lincoln warned us about being divided. They said that a “house divided against itself will not stand”. We must learn to stand together despite the differences we may have. We must promote the fruits of The Spirit and the qualities of the kingdom of God. It’s our job to encourage faith, hope, and love with our tone and our messages. It’s up to us to promote love and forgiveness of those who have done us wrong. It’s our responsibility to influence our audience to become part of the solution, not part of the problem. It can be so easy to complain about a news story. It’s our natural inclination to “jump on the bandwagon” to criticize public figures. But, when we stop complaining about things, and start acting as a voice of positive ideas, Godly principles, and real solutions, we will have a great impact.
The book of Proverbs reminds us that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”[iv] Our message, our voice, our social media posts, should attract people to our cause and our belief system. It shouldn’t repel them. Our audience should not be inclined to unfollow or de-friend us because of our constant complaining and venting. They should notice something different about us as we communicate the message of faith, the victorious Christian life, and solutions to the problems of our time. We don’t deny that there are great problems in our world today, we just choose to highlight the greater solutions of an even greater God.
Stay tuned for the next point entitled, Don’t Fight.
[i] Mark 4:40, New International Version
[ii] Philippians 2:14-15, New Living Translation
[iii] Galatians 6:1, New International Version
[iv] Proverbs 18:21, New King James Version