I recently heard of something that happened on Facebook. A girl posted about New Years Day, saying “People always make New Year’s Resolutions, but let’s face it, none of us are going to keep ours.”
How would you respond to a statement like that?
Some people posted back in agreement, and the poster had a lot of likes. But one of the poster’s 375 “friends” had just made a New Year’s Resolution to go back to the gym. She really wanted to keep it, and was a kind of “up” and bubbly person, so that comment really got to her. This girl (we’ll call her Jena) simply posted back “Ew”.
In other words, Jena had read this negative comment, had felt it strike her wrongly, and she posted her feelings about it: “Ew.”
It turns out things had gotten a little tense between the girl and Jena lately. They were in the same math class … no words had been exchanged, just a few dirty looks that probably started with mutual jealousy. The first girl posted back to Jena, “I hear you’re switching high schools. Is it because you don’t have any friends at this school?”
What she didn’t realize was Jena’s dad had serious surgery the year before, and they were moving so he could live in a house that didn’t have as many stairs. Switching schools was causing the whole family a tremendous stress.
The point is, this Facebook war mushroomed into something that involved three days of posts, over 160 people from 5 different communities and 3 different schools.
Some would argue it all started with just TWO LITTLE LETTERS: E-W. Ew.
With that story in mind, here’s four principles to help us be godly Facebookers.
1. Your online behaviour reflects your offline attitudes
Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
You can’t say, and you can’t post, what you’re not thinking about.
So before your write something on Facebook, imagine how others might respond to what are you saying. How do think they will feel? Good? Or Bad? If you think there’s a chance they will take it negatively, maybe you shouldn’t post it.
Posting and texting is just like any other area of life. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus states clearly, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” This ‘Golden Rule’ sums up almost every other command in the Bible.
2. Avoid online negativity
This principle is like a subcategory of the first. If you say something negative about a person, it often gets back to the source. If you post something negative in public about another person, that’s worse. If you try to encrypt it so that only a few people know what you’re talking about, it will be sniffed out by the source — and probably 20 other people who are so deeply insecure that they think everyone is referring to them.
If you have something you need to say to someone, then go and talk to them face-to-face. And do it with grace and love.
3. Don’t return evil for evil
What if someone says something negative about you? Not returning evil for evil is really hard, and yet it is where the rubber meets the road in relying on Christ. You’re going to need practice and patience.
Here are some examples I’ve seen of people responding to negative comments:
Negative person says: “Where’d you get those ugly jeans?”
Reply: (roll eyes) “I know they’re not the best … but I really love all the stuff you wear.”
Negative person says: “I can’t stand so-and-so. He’s really annoying.”
Reply: “Actually, he sits beside me in math. He’s really nice once you get to know him.”
Negative person says: “So and so wrote bad stuff about you on the bathroom wall.”
Reply: “You’re kidding! Wow. I always really liked her. I’ll try and find a time to chat with her about it.”
It’s very hard to return a mean comment with a nice one because we feel like we are giving that mean person even more power. But the opposite is true.
4. Kill them with kindness
Psalm 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
“Heap burning coals” means that regardless of what people may show on the outside, you will make them burn with regret over what they just said. It’s such a well-known tactic that it has a name: It’s called “killing people with kindness”.
That doesn’t mean the guilt will show up in people right away. Generally, they will look confused or stunned.
But often they’ll go away and think about it. Conversely, if you say something mean back, you are throwing fire at fire. What happens to the fire when you add fire to it? It grows and grows. Will fire ever put out a fire?
In the end, as Christians, we want to follow the lead of Jesus, who said in Matthew 5:44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Are you ready to do that on Facebook today?