Good morning, Pastor
Sunday evening, I saw another story detailing how some people have been abused through public shaming on social media. It was heart wrenching to witness the pain these poor folks are experiencing. Some of them are dealing with the consequences of their own actions. Others are innocent victims of being incorrectly identified. Regardless, it is clear that no one should be treated in these ways for any reason.
Recently, I have noticed again some of the ways that Christ-followers whom I know are speaking to or about one another in the public spaces of social media. I cannot image how this enhances our witness in the world. I was reminded of a resolution that was passed by our recent General Assembly that will add a new paragraph to our Manual:
903.19 The Use of Social Media. First and foremost, the content that we share should be respectful. As in all interpersonal relationships, we believe that the content of our social media should also be a reflection of the sanctified hearts for which we strive. Clergy and laity alike must be mindful of how their activities on social media affect the image of Christ and His church and impact its mission within their communities. Our activities should be life giving and affirming and should seek to uplift all persons.
Most of the comments and conversations I heard around this resolution seemed fairly dismissive. Not that anybody thought encouraging proper behavior online was a bad idea, but that folks seemed to have little hope that a Manual statement would make any difference. That may be true, but I wonder if it has to be true? How could it be different? How could a simple statement like this begin actually to make a difference in how our people conduct themselves on social media?
I would suggest that it begins with us, the pastors of the church. We must model for our people how to conduct our lives in ways that reflect our good message of holiness of heart and life. So first, would you be willing to conduct a serious audit of your social media presence? The response may be to speak differently. The response may be to speak less. Then, let’s talk to our people about this. Read for them the new Manual paragraph and invite them to consider prayerful reflection on the quality of the testimony they are offering to the world through their use of these ubiquitous avenues of communication. Holiness should make a difference for us and for our neighbors in the most common areas of our shared life. May God help us to demonstrate in the daily conduct of our lives that the Spirit who indwells us enables us to show the fruit of the Spirit rather than the fruit of an anxious and angry world.