Today's lesson comes from the pen of Don Blackwell. Don is a friend, a faithful brother in Christ, and an extremely talented gospel preacher. His thoughts on a very relevant topic have been copied below for your consideration.
When I woke up this morning, I grabbed my iPhone, turned off the beeping alarm, and immediately updated my Facebook status. On the way to school I scrolled through my friends' status updates, and again updated mine with the song that was playing on my iPod. At lunch, I took a picture of me and my friends and uploaded it via the Facebook utility that I downloaded from the app store. I'm lying in bed now with my laptop and chatting with my BFF (best friend forever) in Tennessee. Status update: "Good night all. I'll text you in the morning." Such is the day of a typical, American young person.
Facebook has taken the cyber world by storm and our social lives forever in a different direction. Compete.com ranked Facebook as the most used social network in the world. According to Facebook's own stats page, there are currently more than 350 million active users and 65 million people are accessing Facebook through their phones/mobile devices. They say the average user has 130 Facebook friends and spends more than 55 minutes a day on their site.
Facebook has opened doors of communication that didn't exist in the past. It has united old friends, helped to keep families connected, and openly provided opportunities to teach the gospel. Unfortunately, however, not everything that Facebook has brought us is good. In many ways Facebook is like a window into one's soul. It allows others to see his hobbies and habits. They can see everything from pictures of his vacation to his favorite songs and websites. Truly, Facebook reveals more about us than we might at first realize. Sadly, the Facebook pages of some Christians bring shame on themselves and the Lord's church.
Are there Biblical principles that should govern our use of Facebook and similar sites? Certainly! In Titus 2:5, Paul tells us that the way Christian women behave themselves could result in the word of God being blasphemed. In I Timothy 6:1, he says that the way Christian servants behave toward their masters could result in people blaspheming the name of God. These and other passages teach us the way we conduct ourselves in our daily social affairs could result in reproach being brought upon the body of Christ. So, what does this have to do with Facebook? Facebook is a "social tool," and the way I conduct myself on that particular forum could help or hurt the cause of Christ.
What if Jesus were on Facebook? I want you to use your imagination and pretend that you log on to Facebook one day, and Jesus has sent you a friend request. We know that such is not possible, but, for the sake of illustration, pretend. What would you do? Would you have to stop and think before you accepted it? Would you have to look through your pictures to be sure you don't have any immodest images of yourself or anything tasteless? Would you need to make sure you don't have any pictures taken in inappropriate places? Would you go back over your postings to be sure you haven't said anything crude or inappropriate? Would you scan through your list of favorite movies and music, and perhaps delete a few of them before you let Jesus on your site? What about the games you play? Quizzes you take? Is there anything there that would make you stop and say to yourself, "I think I'll delete that before I let Jesus on my site?" If the answer is "Yes," to any of those questions, then why not go ahead and take it off now? The fact of the matter is, the Lord does look at our Facebook pages! He sees everything we post on Facebook (and everywhere else for that matter). Proverbs 15:3 - "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good."
There's another part of this, even beyond the fact that God is watching me on Facebook; other people are watching me, too. Why does that matter? It matters because what they see on my Facebook site affects what they think about me, the church, and Christianity. What if I have my "religious preference" listed as "church of Christ," and then I have pictures posted of me at a nightclub or dancing or at the beach or some other place dressed immodestly or with an alcoholic beverage? What if my status update has the lyrics to the latest Lady Gaga song? Or, maybe I'm venting and running someone else down with a generally ugly demeanor? We could give dozens of examples, but the question is: "What effect is it going to have on my non-Christian friend (or Christian friend for that matter) who looks at my site?" He might say to himself, "I do better than that and I don't even pretend to be a Christian!" Or, he might just think: "What a hypocrite!" Please don't misunderstand our point. We're not suggesting that you simply need to take these inappropriate things off Facebook. We're not suggesting that you need to hide them better. We are not suggesting that you go to nightclubs (or anything else you say or do), but do a better job of keeping it a secret. Posting these things on Facebook for all the world to see makes it worse, because when a Christian advertises immorality, he hurts the church. What we are suggesting is that you root these things out of your life and heart altogether (cf. Matt. 5:8; Phil. 4:8; II Tim. 2:22).
Once again, use your imagination. Imagine that you are surfing Facebook and you see that Jesus has His own site. You are excited so you send Him a friend request. Would He accept it? Most of us, when we receive a friend request, have some sort of criteria before we indiscriminately accept someone as our friend. We first ascertain if we know the person. We glance at his information, his friend list, where he lives, etc. But what about Jesus? Does He have criteria for friend requests? Sure He does! He said, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14). Therefore, to be a friend of Jesus, you have to obey Him. In light of this, ask yourself, "Would Jesus accept my friend request?" Before you answer the question, consider your faithfulness in attending worship, your Bible study habits, your efforts to teach others, your giving, the way you treat other people, etc. Now, with your answers in mind, would Jesus accept your friend request?
Sometimes Christians ask: "What do I do if I see another Christian posting something inappropriate on Facebook?" Perhaps I have seen a brother or sister in Christ use foul language in his or her status update, or maybe he has posted a picture of himself downing a Budweiser. What do I do? Jesus told His disciples to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves." In other words, use wisdom and be kind. Second, the same Bible principles that apply elsewhere apply here. Galatians 6:1 discusses the fact that those who are spiritual should assist a brother who is overtaken in a sin. There may come a time when, out of love for my brother and concern for the church, I may need to address something a fellow Christian has posted on Facebook. Maybe I need to call him on the phone, or send him a private message. Facebook does not exempt us from our Christian duties.
What if we spent as much time each day in Bible study as we do on Facebook? The average person spends 55 minutes a day (nearly an hour) on Facebook. For some, it's obviously a lot more. What would your spiritual life be like if you spent that much time in Bible study and prayer?
Here's a question: Are you a daily user of Facebook but you've told yourself you're too busy to study your Bible every day? The answer may make you stop and think about your priorities. Jesus said - "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33).
Before I went to bed tonight I decided to spend one minute on Facebook. Status update: "Reading my Bible. No more Facebook tonight."
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.