When you are about to post on Facebook, it greets you with a question, “What’s on your mind?” Imagine if everything that was on our mind got posted on Facebook automatically. What if all the bitter, lustful, angry thoughts were automatically posted on Facebook? How many of us would still use social media? You, however, may breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you can curate your best thoughts or experiences for the world to see on social media. But Scripture tells us that even before there is a word on our tongue, God knows it all (Psalm 139:4). So, how do we as Christians use social media in the presence of our all-knowing and all-present God if nothing escapes His holy gaze?
Whether through news, Facebook posts, or tweets, we are reminded daily of the reality of the sinfulness of this world by how the truth is suppressed, distorted and abhorred (Romans 1:18). Many tend to distort the truth in their favor or use words to put down the other person. The goal is always to elevate themselves. The propensity to sin with our speech online could be due to a lack of immediate consequences because who is there to punish these “keyboard warriors”? As Christians, are we then living like functional atheists? Moreover, it would be naïve to think that our online speech will not translate to our real-life conversations. Thus, it calls for urgency among us believers, who have been transformed by the gospel to this new life of righteousness, to be truthful and sincere, gentle and graceful, in our speech, both in daily conversations and on social media.
In the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, while correcting the false teachers of His time who were flippantly and carelessly taking false oaths, Jesus encourages His believers by teaching, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37). While Jesus was not prohibiting or banning the taking of oaths, He was calling upon His believers to be truthful and sincere in everything they say. Ephesians 5:1 also commands us to imitate God, and the contrary is sobering, because when we sin, we are imitating the Father of lies. So, any speech other than what is truthful and sincere does not represent the character of our truthful God, but of Satan.
Ways to Identify If Our Speech is Christlike or Not
Examine your speech: You know better than anyone else (with the exception of God Himself), if you are being truthful or not in your speech. In fact, this might also be a motivation to stay silent rather than speak in an untruthful, insincere or rash manner (James 1:9). Moreover, Ephesians 4:29 can be a great motivator for us to examine our speech. Even when we are being truthful, is our speech motivated by love to build the other person? Does it fit the occasion or is it spoken at an appropriate time? And lastly, does it provide grace to the hearer? Imagine how many social media arguments would have been avoided if believers filtered their speech through the grid of Ephesians 4:29.
Here are a few ways that we fail to be Christlike in our speech on social media:
- We are quick to post a comment with little thought.
- We give sarcastic, hurtful or degrading comments to shame or bring down the other person.
- We make crude jokes or laugh at inappropriate humor.
- We make social media posts with a self-glorifying intent.
- We complain or brag about our earthly blessings with no thanksgiving to our Creator.
Examine your heart: Scripture tells us that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and it is through our thoughts, speech and behavior that we can see the remaining sin of our hearts. This is why Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (emphasis mine). What is the state of our heart? Look at your speech. We could even be self-righteous when we see the open depravity on social media, and be quick to say, “At least that’s not me.” Paul, however, says that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, and then proceeds to remind us of our condition before salvation: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11, emphasis mine).
On the other hand, we could be enjoying the sins that Christ died for when we think it’s harmless to laugh at crude jokes or sin against an image-bearer of God with our speech online. Here, we need to repent and ask God to give us a higher view of who He is and a proper view of our sin because sin is enjoyable in our flesh. This is why James tells us that we cannot tame the tongue on our own, it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With our tongue, we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God (James 3:8-9). Thus, our sinful speech is more than just a lack of self-control, pride, and self-righteousness, it is because we cannot change our sinful nature. This is why the regeneration of the Holy Spirit is a supernatural work to create us into a new creation, and God has promised to change us from the inside out!
So, as we imitate Christ, we are to put off the evil practices of our old nature with the help of Holy Spirit, and we also need to put on the righteousness that reflects our new nature. How do we put on Christlikeness in our speech?
Saturate your speech with God’s Word: One of the things that I have learned from my experience of counseling is that I am less prone to fail with my words and harm others with my speech when I am more dependent on using God’s word in my conversations. While our words are flawed and cannot be fully trusted, God’s word is trustworthy. This is where James 1:9 is helpful again; we are to be slow to speak but quick to listen. While we spend time in God’s Word, we are opening our ears to hear what God has to say, which will impact our speech to be glorifying to God. God’s Word warns us not to be quick to speak (James 1:9), not to speak corruptly, but to speak to build the other person up in grace (Ephesians 4:29), to speak the truth with love (Ephesians 4:15), and to encourage others gently towards righteousness (Galatians 6:1). Like Luke 6:45 suggests, when God’s Word goes in as good treasure in our heart, Christ-like speech comes out of our mouth.
As we remember that everything in our lives and conversation is in His presence, it challenges us to examine our speech. Similarly, recognizing that what comes out of our mouth may indeed be the thing which will determine what others will think of Him challenges us to strive for Christlike speech. May those around us see our Christlike speech and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).