I’ve been wanting to write this particular piece for a long time, but it simply hasn’t felt like the right timing. Today feels right, so here goes. I should start this with a disclaimer. If you finish reading this and feel like I’m being a bit mean-spirited, please understand, that is not my intent. Also, allow me to say that what I’m about to rant over, I’m also guilty of myself. This is as much directed at myself as it is to anyone.
If you were to take all of the tweets, posts, graphics, photos, and articles shared by social media users who are professing Christians, you’d get a pretty interesting and diverse pile of words and pictures. Next, the question is this: Does the social media picture of a typical Christian walk in step with what the Bible calls a Christian?
One way we can put the average social media Christian on trial is to sample some of the things that professing Christians are saying on Facebook. I’m making one exception to the sampling method. I won’t be taking samples from pastors. This is only because pastors are supposed to know better. By no means is everything any pastor ever posts always correct, but they went to school for this stuff, so they in essence ruin the curve. However, pastors will not be off the hook in this because the results of this will in small ways be a reflection on how they have shepherded and tended their congregations.
Exhibit A: The first example I want to offer is the concept of a false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is a way to present an argument where if you cannot accept A, then you must accept B, or vice versa, and there are no other alternatives; if A is correct, B must be incorrect. To be fair, Christians are not the only people who do this, but Christians should be more discerning. A very popular example of the false dichotomy is the viral video, Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.
Sounds great, right? But it’s totally a false dichotomy. Even the Word of God tells us that pure religion takes care of widows and orphans (James 1:27). God is not opposed to the idea of a systematic approach to knowing him. God himself created a systematic way through which the Israelites could understand who he is and what he plans to do. (See Genesis – Deuteronomy). God does not discourage structure in our faith. He instructs us to appoint elders and deacons (Acts 14:23, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1:5). What God opposes is a heartless, rote adherence to rules and regulations as a means of obtaining and/or keeping salvation. The guy in this video presents two options and crafts his spoken word in a way to eliminate the possibility of a third option: the person who loves Jesus and loves the Church and has poured his or her life into serving people inside and outside the walls of the Church. Even atheists listen to this video and find it absurd.
Christianity is a religion. It is a system of beliefs whereby people can learn how to know God. And it is an exclusive religion. Jesus himself eliminated the possibility of there being other paths to God (John 14:6). If you want to know the one true God, then you must acquaint yourself with His Word to know what is necessary. That’s what religion is: knowing who your God is and how you can gain His acceptance. You can’t hate religion and love Jesus. It would be more accurate to say that you hate religiosity or that you hate works-based faith, and love Jesus. But it is impossible to hate the Bride of Christ, the Church, and expect her Husband, Jesus, to be okay with that.
Bottom Line: Christians should be more discerning, more thoughtful, and less hasty to offer an answer. Not every issue can be boiled down to simple A or B answers.
Exhibit B: The next example I want to submit is the captioned one-liner. You’ve seen these. They’re these pithy little sayings that often get pasted on a picture that helps drive the point. They’re not all bad, but many of them are blatantly amiss of God’s will for his children’s character. Here a few samples.
These are just three of thousands of these floating around the Twitterverse, but all of these have been posted by professing Christians.
- Respecting yourself, in Christian terms, has nothing to do with deciding what kind of respect you are worthy of receiving. You should never expect to receive more than what Christ received when he was on earth; and when you do receive more, count it as a blessing.
- Forgiving one another as Christ forgave us means that we always have reconciliation in mind when we forgive. Reconciliation strives to make things better than they were, not the way it used to be.
- The concept of soulmates isn’t Biblical either. Finding a godly spouse isn’t a search for a soulmate who completes you. Only Christ will complete you. A godly husband or wife is an imperfect person who will disappoint, infuriate, and set you off more than anyone else in life, no matter who they are, yet are always wanting to forgive, be forgiven, and love you better. Painting them as a soulmate only sets you up for disappointment when they crumble under the pressure of your expectations.
What are we actually believing? Are we Christians because we think it’s American to be a Christian? Are we Christians because it’s what my family always has been? Or are we Christians because God has saved us by Christ’s blood, deposited his Holy Spirit within us, and is constantly working to transform us into someone that thinks, talks, and walks like Jesus?
Bottom Line: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Exhibit C: Though there are many more out there, this is my final example and it has to do with how we comfort each other in times of hardship, be it death, sickness, poverty, or whatever. This maybe the most damaging of all because when people are in pain, the strength of the emotions imprint everything into memory. What do I mean? Talk with people who are older, maybe starting to slip a little with their memory. They may not remember what they had for breakfast, but they will remember when Aunt So & So ransacked their deceased grandma’s belongings before anyone else could go even get to her house! They’ll remember with precision the feelings of anger, and the words that were exchanged. That goes for all of us. So when people are emotional and hurting, we should be more careful than ever to guard our words and makes sure that we offer real hope.
Too often, we offer a false hope. We encourage people who’ve lost loved ones that somehow God needed them more than we did, or that God just got another angel. What kind of hope is that? That God selfishly took a loved one from us, or that he needed one more angel to go with the myriads of angels he already had? This isn’t the hope that God shows us in the Scripture!
Or sometimes when Christians get faced with bad things happening to good people, we say that it was God’s will. Was it really God’s will for someone to go bankrupt and lose everything? Was it God’s will for that brother or sister to die from a drunk driver? These are hard questions and they don’t deserve simplistic answers.
Bottom Line: God isn’t in need of anyone. He doesn’t call us home because he needs us. Neither do we become angels when we die. It’s more like God does us a favor when we die because we go to be with him. Plus, the hope we have in death is that it isn’t permanent! Death will one day be reversed and completely destroyed! Christ defeated death, and His resurrection is the guarantee that it is true and that one day those who trust him for salvation will likewise resurrect! That is the greatest hope and the one that we should be comforting each other with in times of suffering!
Folks, like I said at the start, my intention here isn’t to be mean-spirited in my criticisms. I’m doing the socially incorrect thing by pointing out a huge problem that western Christians collectively seem to have. What is wrong with us that we have become so shallow in our thinking? Is it bad teaching? Should we assign the blame to our church leaders because they haven’t shepherded us well enough? Pastors and teachers will be held responsible for what they teach (James 3:1), but they will not be held accountable for sheep who strayed despite sound teaching.
No, the bulk of responsibility will fall on individual Christians who were too distracted by the world, too enamored with their comfort, and too lazy to cultivate a healthy relationship with the Holy Spirit within. What is the verdict from our investigation of the social media Christian? At best, he seems confused, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. At worst, he doesn’t seem to be Christian at all.
P.S. : An honorable mention is the insane obsession of some Christians to stomp out yoga pants. As my wife would say, “Really? People are dying and going to hell, and we’re arguing about yoga pants?”