Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media

In the Old Testament, when God saved His people out of bondage, He saved them for a purpose. God led Moses to the top of Mount Sinai for forty days. During this time, God not only gave Moses detailed instructions for the tabernacle; He also gave Moses two stone tablets inscribed with special instructions we know as the Ten Commandments. Out of His love for His people, God gave them these moral and spiritual laws to keep them safe as well as set them apart.
In the same spirit, I want to suggest ten commandments for you to consider as you use social media. It’s pretty obvious these didn’t come directly from God. But the principles are definitely based on His Word. I borrowed these from a Christian author who I greatly appreciate and read all that he publishes. These are ten ways to protect your time, your heart, your body, and your soul, as well as deepen your faith through what you type, text, and tweet.
These are simply ten helpful suggestions for how you can use social media in ways that will show others your love for God while not allowing social media to define you or to take an unhealthy place in your life. Social media and technology are amazing tools, and with a little discipline and prayer, they can be a gift to connect with others and reflect your love for an amazing God. So just imagine they’re on virtual stone tablets. I will list the ten of them and then comment on them individually over the next few days.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.
2> Love others as you want to be loved.
3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.
4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.
5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.
6> Do not post out of emotion.
7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.
8> Do not use social media to fuel temptations.
9> Form your own opinions; do not follow the crowd.
10> Do not base your identity on what people think.
Let’s dig into the first one…
1> PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL YOU SAY AND POST
Sounds easy enough, right? But if it really were that easy, you wouldn’t need me to remind you. So let’s think about ways you can remind yourself of what is fundamentally true.
We need to always remember who you are and whose you are. You don’t just represent yourself or your family; you represent Christ. Paul says it clearly: “And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17)
Too often we want to compartmentalize our lives. We’re tempted to think we’re okay because we do the church thing on Sundays. Then during the week, we do the work thing, and on the weekends we do our own thing. But in reality, because our lives belong to God, everything we do should be God’s things.
Everything.
He should be first in all we do. If we’re watching television, going to the grocery store, studying for an exam, asking someone out on a date, updating our Facebook status, or tweeting about out latest business deal, whatever we do, we should do it for God. Notice the way Paul qualifies his instructions: “whether in word or deed.” Whether we are speaking or acting, shouting or singing, do it all for the glory of God. We could translate this into our social-media culture by saying, “Whatever you do, whether tweeting, commenting, posting, or uploading, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus.”
Before saying anything online (or in person), ask yourself whether you are truly representing and reflecting the love and goodness of God. If not, don’t say it. Ever. And don’t just think about the words you say; think about the pictures or videos you post. If in any way they don’t reflect God’s standards, don’t share them.
I love the way The Living Bible translates Proverbs 3:6. This should be our standard online: “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”
In other words, “Thou shalt put God first in all you say or post.”
The second social media commandment as we saw last time is…
2> LOVE OTHERS AS WANT TO BE LOVED
You’ve probably heard the Golden Rule before: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Jesus summarized His instruction on how to treat other people with this rule when a group asked Him how they should respond to their enemies. Raising the bar higher than ever before, this rule applies when we interact with others in person as well as online.
When you think about how you like to be loved online, it’s easy to know how to treat others. For starters is the obvious. You can “Like” someone’s post. You can retweet what they say or reply with a kind word or two. You can offer a sincere and uplifting compliment. You can comment positively on something they said or posted.
You can refrain from saying something hurtful to others, being antagonistic, or always ignoring what they do or say. As a general rule, I try not to post things that are negative and critical. Enough people are doing that. I want what I say and show to be uplifting and encouraging, to build rather than to tear down. This doesn’t mean that we avoid tough issues but we can talk about them from a positive perspective, offering solutions rather than poking at people and making others look bad.
Besides saying nice things and avoiding ugly online interactions, you can find all kinds of ways to love people using technology and social media. You can take the relationship out of the virtual realm by replying in person. Instead of simply posting a comment, you can reply with a call, a handwritten note, or a personal visit. If someone asks for prayer, you can go to their home and pray with them instead of just praying from a distance. If someone loses a job, you can offer to pay a bill while they’re looking for work or help them network to find new job opportunities. And when they get a job, you can go out to dinner with them to celebrate the blessing. You know tons of things that people do for you that help you feel loved. So get creative online and off and love others in the same ways you want to be loved.
3> USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FACILITATE, NOT REPLACE, REAL RELATIONSHIPS.
Ten years ago, most of us would have never imagined all the social benefits technology now offers. Even as I’m writing this, I can’t believe that I can FaceTime my friends who are on the other side of the planet or send a text to my best friend just across town. And, we are constantly seeing the development of more and more social media to help us stay connected with others.
We should maximize all that technology offers to help strengthen our friendships and relationships. But as the gravitational pull to live online continues to grow, we must remind ourselves that the best relationships are not those that are limited to looking at a screen but those that involve loving a person in person.
So text away. Tweet what you’re doing. Post what you’re eating. But put more effort into your treasured relationships. Remember to call. Plan a visit. Eat with someone, and then sit and chat for two hours afterwards. Sit across from each other in a coffee shop and talk about everything that matters and a few things that don’t. Make a meal for someone and being it to their house. Take a long walk with a friend and just chat about whatever comes to mind. When someone you love is injured and in the hospital, don’t just text them; go visit them. Don’t just do life together from a distance. Do life up close. As Paul might have tweeted, “Be devoted to one another in love” (Romans 12:10).
So far we have looked at the first three of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.
1> Put God first in all you say and post.
2> Love others as you want to be loved.
3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.
4> USE SOCIAL MEDIA INSTEAD OF BEING CONTROLLED BY IT AS AN IDOL
As followers of Jesus, we need to make sure a good thing never becomes a supreme thing. Unquestionably, leveraging technology to share about Jesus and connect with people is a good thing. But if left unchecked, using technology can become obsessive and idolatrous.
We all know people who are obsessed with how many followers they have, how many have started following them, and who has unfollowed them. Most of us have found ourselves hitting refresh a few too many times in the hope of finding new Likes and comments. Some people get lost in a world of creeping on others, constantly obsessing over what they post or say, sometimes with people they don’t even know! Some can’t control the urge to look at just one more thing on Pinterest, knowing that one final click (which is never just one) might hold that special something that will finally make their life complete. Still others play just one more game, hoping this time they’ll finally break their high score or reach a new level.
It’s hard to see it in the moment, but when we stand back, we realize that we might as well have bowed down before some giant smart phone in the sky. The Bible couldn’t be clearer about idolatry. In addition to the commandment to “have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), we’re also told: “Dear children, keep yourself from idols” (1 John 5:21). The moment you realize you’re starting to put something above God, tear that idol down. As soon as you realize that you don’t have control, that you click and click again without knowing how to stop, acknowledge the problem. Don’t rationalize it. Don’t explain it away. And don’t put off dealing with it.
Just tell the truth.
You are addicted.
And it is idolatry.
Once you acknowledge your problem before God, you can ask for His forgiveness and His help. God always hears the prayer of the repentant heart. Not only will He forgive you, but He will also give you the strength to put away the things that keep you from Him.
Use social media. Enjoy it. But don’t let it overtake you. If you see an iDol in your life, smash it!
5> TURN YOUR VIRTUAL OTHER CHEEK TO POSTS THAT OFFEND YOU
Follow enough people, and it won’t take long: someone will say or show something inappropriate or offensive. If you’re like most people, you find it easy to get up in arms and take offense. As Christians, though, we can rise above the temptation to get down in the dirt. Solomon says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, emphasis added).
In our culture, many people are quick to judge, quick to call a foul, and quick to be offended. But even though they may be quick to get upset, they’re slow to show grace by overlooking offences. God’s Word teaches us to be different from the world. It’s to our glory to overlook an offense.
To be clear, overlooking an offense isn’t the same as pretending it didn’t happen or encouraging injustice. No, to overlook something is a decision to let it go. It’s a form of forgiveness. The Hebrew word translated overlook also means “to pass over.” You can look at what can hurt you and spiritually soar right on by it.
If people say something harsh or sharp, instead of puffing up and striking back, allow God’s Spirit to help you give them the benefit of the doubt. Chances are their bad mood isn’t about you, and their critical spirit probably isn’t against you as much as it’s a reflection of something they’re dealing with, That someone is constantly angry or harsh is often a sign they’re hurting. Why? Because hurting people hurt people,. Rather than taking an offense, you should take them to prayer and ask God to help them.
If a post starts to grieve your heart or make you unrighteously angry, remember that you don’t have to follow the poster. You can to some degree control what you see and read. No matter what, remember that just as Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, so we can turn a virtual other cheek to posts that offend us. Life is too short to allow someone else’s bad attitude pollute our heart and relationships.
So far we have looked at the first five of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.
1> Put God first in all you say and post.
2> Love others as you want to be loved.
3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.
4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.
5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.
Let’s look as several more today…
6> DO NOT POST OUT OF EMOTION
When you think about it, the ability to say whatever you’re thinking to a large group of semi-interested people is pretty scary, which is a good reason never to post when you’re feeling angry, upset, rejected, or offended or are feeling any other unsettling emotion. If you’re wondering whether you are responding out of emotion, remember this: when in doubt, wait it out.
As a rule, I never, ever post when I’m overly emotional. Never,. I also have the discipline not to defend myself or get into unnecessary online controversy. For years, I’ve avoided responding to critics or posting out of emotion. Many years ago the Lord told me to let Him fight my battles. So, even when I am being spoken against or misunderstood – I remain quite on social media. What I might say can come back to bite me so it is better to say nothing. And, remember, people can read whatever emotion in to the words you write that they want to. So, you can quickly add to the misunderstanding without meaning to. Take a deep breath. Relax. The Kingdom is doing just fine. And, let the Lord defend you. He better at it than you are.
Without a doubt, you will be tempted to post when you’re agitated or hurt. But when in doubt, wait it out. Post only out of love.
7> ALWAYS REFLECT JESUS, LOVING GOD WHETHER ONLINE OR OFF
After Jesus had silenced the attacking Sadducees the Pharisees conspired to trap Him. One of the experts baited Jesus by asking Him which commandment was the greatest. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 ESV). Above all else, the most important command we have is to love God with every part of our being. Therefore, we should always love and reflect Jesus online and off.
I encourage you to go through everything you’ve posted or said online in the past month. Pretend like you don’t know anything about yourself. Look at everything objectively and determine what conclusions someone would draw about you based on what you’ve posted. Do you like what you see? What does your online footprint reveal about you? Does what you show accurately reflect what you believe? Would people say you love God above all? Or would they think you love something else more – maybe even yourself?
This doesn’t mean the only thing we ever post should be Bible verses or quotes from your pastor’s sermon. But over a month’s time, certainly people should be able to see evidence that we love God and follow Jesus. If this evidence is not in your posts, ask yourself why not. Are you afraid of what people will think? Or worse yet, are you revealing that you aren’t really loving God above all else?
If you are falling more and more in love with God each day, your love will show in the things you post. You won’t have to force it or fake it. If you realize you are forcing or faking it, instead of trying to show something that’s not real or genuine, acknowledge the you aren’t loving God with all your heart and all you are. Ask Him to help you, to guide you, and to draw you. When you seek Him, you will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13). He will reveal Himself to you. When you experience Him and taste His goodness, so will your online and offline witness for Him.
Thou shalt always reflect Jesus.
Love God online and off.
So far we have looked at the first seven of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.
1> Put God first in all you say and post.
2> Love others as you want to be loved.
3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.
4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.
5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.
6> Do not post out of emotion.
7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.
8> DO NOT USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FUEL TEMPTATIONS
It’s no secret that technology and social media can open the door to temptations with simple clicks and keystrokes. Instead of having to go through numerous steps, actions, or behaviours to come face to face with a fierce temptation, we can now encounter it on our monitors in nanoseconds.
I don’t just mean sexual temptations. A shopping app for some is more temptation to click and buy than they can handle on a weak evening with nothing to do. Or an open door to gambling is the worse possible temptation for someone who feels lucky — again. For others, online gossip quietly whispers their name: “Come get in on the know.” Some are tempted to compare, to overshare, or to look and lust. It’s important to be honest about where you’re vulnerable, and plan to avoid the traps that can hurt you.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, doesn’t pull any punches when he describes the deception and dangers of temptation. After explaining clearly that God never tempts, James adds, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). The Greek word James uses that is translated enticed is actually a fishing term that illustrates how temptation baits us and then hooks us. What starts out as something small and seemingly harmless can quickly become something big and dangerous, even deadly.
However, as a believer in Jesus, you never have to battle temptation alone. The author of Hebrews reminds us that “because [Jesus] himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18). If you are being tempted, you are not on your own. Jesus is able to help you. So if you spot an open door to online temptation, ask Jesus to help you close it.
When you pray for wisdom, God will give it to you (see James 1:5). When He shows you how to shut the door to online temptation, slam that door, lock it, and throw away the encryption key. Delete the app if you have to. Or if you need to, give someone else a password to keep yourself from having access to download apps. You might need to download a filtered browser or block certain websites. Or you might share passwords or have joint accounts with your spouse. Whatever it takes, thou shalt not use technology to fuel temptation.
We have been looking at how, as believers, we can interact with social media and use this amazing technology in such a way as to glorify God. We have looked at 8 of the 10 commandments. Let’s finish up today…
The ones we have looked at….
1> Put God first in all you say and post.
2> Love others as you want to be loved.
3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.
4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.
5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.
6> Do not post out of emotion.
7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.
8> Do not use social media to fuel temptation.
9> FORM YOUR OWN OPINIONS; DO NOT FOLLOW THE CROWD.
When you follow other people online, you can learn a lot of wisdom from those who are wise. Unfortunately, not only are some people not wise, they can be downright foolish. Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” I love the way the New Living Translation translates the last part of this verse. It says, “the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.” Chances are you’ve seen this type pf person let loose online.
Jesus instructs us to stay on the narrow road, warning that the broad or wide road leads to destruction (see Matthew 7:13-14). Sometimes it seems as if everyone is going the same way, but that doesn’t mean they are going the right way. Often on social media, many people jump on the bandwagons of opinions about God, politics, or the latest celebrity scandal. But just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. Especially when it comes to what people post online.
It may be tempting to follow the crowd, but doing so can be dangerous. Exodus 23:2 says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” God gave you a brain to think for yourself. He gave you His Word to seek His will. He gave you His Spirit to guide you into all truth (see John 16:13). Instead of believing everything you see or hear, think for yourself.
Paul explain the importance of resisting the lure of the crowd when he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2). Don’t be like everyone else. The Message loosely translates this same verse: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” Instead of doing what most everyone else does or believing what many say is true, we should have our minds renewed by God’s truth.
Resist the urge to blend in.
Don’t be a sheep and follow the herd.
Follow the Shepherd.
10> DO NOT BASE YOUR IDENTITY ON WHAT PEOPLE THINK
Anyone who spends time on social media will be tempted to compare, thinking, “How many followers do they have? Wow! That’s way more than I have.” We may also be tempted to think the opposite when we see that someone gets fewer Likes or mentions than we do — that they aren’t as important as we are. An unhealthy view of social media can cause us to feel either an ungodly pride or an unhealthy sense of inadequacy.
Not only can we be tempted to base our identity on who follows us (or by who doesn’t), but we can also allow ourselves to be consumed by what others say. If they Like our new shirt in our latest selfie, we feel great. If they don’t say anything, we might assume they don’t like it. And if they say, “What were u thinking when u bought that UGLY thang?” We might never shop at the same store again.
As Christians, we must constantly remind ourselves not to base our identity — our view of ourselves and our worth — on what other people say or think about us. Who we are and our value is determined by what Christ says about us. Others may criticize us, ignore us, or unfollow us, but that doesn’t affect who we really are. We are who Christ says we are.
In case you’e wondering what He says about you, here’s a short list.
You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
You are forgiven, and your sins are washed away (Ephesians 1:7)
You are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
You are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)
You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
You are filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11)
You are a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
You are Christ’s divine representative to this world (2 Corinthians 5:20)
You are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
You are greatly loved by God (John 14:20-23)
No matter what anyone says or implies, you do not need to be moved by their words. You are secure in Christ and Christ alone. Thou shalt not base your identity on what people think.
So there you have the ten commandments for using social media. It can be tempting to view these like we often view the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses — as burdens that limit what we can and can’t do. But in truth, God’s commandments are supreme blessings that free us to serve Him faithfully and to live joyfully. In the same way, I pray these ten commandments of social media will provide live-giving and life-protecting boundaries that enable you to enjoy relating to others online without losing focus on what matters most.
So post, tweet, click, snap, text, chat, comment, and enjoy it all. But do it all out of the overflow of your love for God and love for people. Use technology, but don’t let it overtake your life. Enjoy the benefits of technology, but don’t let it define you.
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.