About 2600 years ago Daniel wrote down his visions of the end times. At the conclusion he is directed by the revelator: “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” Today we live in the season where knowledge is not only increasing; it is exploding upon our world. For such a time as this we are seeing a massive number of technological advances. And social media is no doubt the one that impacts more people than any other.
Social media are fascinating phenomena. Barely a couple years ago if you’d have recited to me any of the six general types of social media I’d have given you a blank look. Now I’m at least generally engaged in each area: in social networking (via FaceBook and LinkedIn), in bookmarketing sites, in social news, in media sharing services (like YouTube), in blogging (via my Christianityalloverthemap.com website) and in microblogging (via Twitter).
Social media empowers average individuals in ways that few of us could have imagined just a few years ago. A local pastor friend of mine cited an instance a little over a week ago where he tweeted a comment to a news event impacting churches in the Houston area. The next day his tweet was republished in some national news outlets. Then just a couple days ago he posted another one liner congratulating a federal court for their decision which was favorable to a moral issue he supports. Within a very short time he had several comments, some positive, some negative, from a wide range of people around the country, including a highly insulting reaction from a person that was in his Bible college graduating class.
Throughout history, anyone who has had access to a preacher’s pulpit, a professor’s lectern, a politician’s platform, a newscaster’s microphone, a publisher’s newsprint, or a judges gavel has wielded great power. It takes a wise person to manage power. And so I’ve heard many a person in positions of controlling such instruments speak of the caution they take before yielding access of those instruments of power to another. Yet social media has removed most of these protections.
Social media makes everyone a potential evangelist or preacher or teacher, a potential news reporter or commentator on the social and cultural issues of our day, or a potential reviewer and critic of anyone who dares to publish or say anything in the public forum. I believe there are God-ordained purposes for social media; but as with anything good, it has the inherent possibility of being abused. So as I participate in the phenomena I find myself constantly asking, what is it about social media that so often removes a person’s natural inhibitions, that causes them to throw caution to the wind, that looses the tongue of one who might otherwise wisely cogitate and remain silent on a controversial issue, at least until they’ve taken the time to develop a well-thought-out response? If we believe, as many of us do, that in the spirit realm, whatever is said becomes a reality, then why do even Christians feel the need to say whatever we like, knowing there will result an immediate manifestation?
While Holy Scripture has much advice to give on the subject, those who restrict themselves to secular reading can hardly avoid the common sense guidance of our fellow humans. Mike Bell, author and photographer reminds us that “The chatterer reveals every corner of his shallow mind.” American poet and author Anthony Liccione wisely asks, “Does giving your piece of mind, bring a peace of mind? Or is it better to be silent and let the war inside subside?” Even best-selling contemporary Christian fiction novelist Donita K. Paul comments that “Not all tongues that wag cohabit with a brain.” But perhaps American Author and Novelist Richelle E. Goodrich provides us with the best recommendation of all when she says: “Okay, let’s put this another way – if what you’re about to say wouldn’t look good permanently engraved on your tombstone, bite your tongue.”
When I ask myself why God would allow the development and advancement of a social media product like FaceBook in these “Last Days”, I come up with at least three logical answers. First, these are clearly tools capable of reaching the masses with the Gospel. Second, they each serve as a test of our own heart and beliefs (namely how we will respond to words and ideas that offend us and/or to God’s Word). And third, they reveal the heart of each man and woman (serving as a warning to others of who can and can’t be trusted.) It’s the second and third reasons that I want to explore further.
Social media reveal the heart of man (and woman)
Throughout the Bible the “heart” is spoken of as the seat of our personality. It’s that with which we think, trust, plan, lust, understand, rebel, deceive, and which becomes heavy, sorrowful, bitter, cheerful, proud and envious. It’s the whole of our inner self, the real you. That’s why Solomon in Proverbs 27 says: “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.”
Jesus often said that, “by their fruits you shall know them.” That is, our words and our actions reveal the true attitude of our hearts towards God and toward our fellow man. I find it interesting that people try so hard to camouflage the person and the family that they desire others to view on social media. Yet, as hard as they try, their true self often is revealed. Think for example, when you post a message, or when you read a message posted by another, do you respond like the Roman centurion (with such deep faith that Jesus hadn’t seen even among His own people), like the harlot (who humbly sought and received forgiveness and went and sinned no more), like Paul (whose love and compassion for the people of his own race was such that he said he’d rather be cut off from Christ if they could be saved), or like the proud and haughty Pharisee?
When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus into the Temple to present Him to the Lord as required by the Law, the old man Simeon who had been waiting years for that day, met them, blessed them and prophesied, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against … that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” In other words, if our thoughts are at all different or at odds with the thoughts and promises and will of God, we’ll be offended by them in some way and it will be revealed. And I observe such revelations on FaceBook each time I’m on. It’s impossible to hide forever. And that’s a good thing. For once it’s revealed, either to us directly, or to a brother or sister that will work with us to help us, then we can be reconciled to God and to His Church.
Hear and heed what the Bible says about the heart of mankind. It is the heart that concerns the wise man. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Guard your heart with all diligence, because out of it spring the issues of life. It is important not that you sing to the Lord, but that you sing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. It’s important not merely to do what is right, but that truth be in the inward parts. A heart that is honest is what delights God. Indeed, it is only the pure in heart that shall see God. God will write his law on the heart, to cause the man to want to follow the Lord.