It’s a hot, dry afternoon in Jerusalem. Jesus strolls through a busy marketplace. All of sudden, he reaches under his robe, grabs his phone and snaps a pic of the crowd. #beautifulday. A few minutes later, Jesus tweets where he will speak next. The moment he posts, a Pharisee comments, calling Jesus a heretic. Jesus favorites the Pharisee’s comment.
As crowds gather on a hillside, Peter opens his camera app. He shows a few disciples a video where Jesus casts a demon out of a man. Andrew responds, “Dude, you have to put that on YouTube. It will have a million views tonight.”
Thomas looks at Andrew and says, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
This scenario sounds crazy, right? But have you ever considered how Jesus would respond to social media? How would the son of God interact with platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Would he SnapChat his disciples? Would he upload all of his sermons to YouTube?
In short, I believe Jesus would engage on social media. Jesus valued spaces where people of all backgrounds gathered. For Jesus, that space was the marketplace. Of his 132 public appearances, 122 had a marketplace context. The four gospels record Jesus telling 52 parables; 45 had a marketplace context.
Social media is the modern-day marketplace. People from all backgrounds are on social media. Lives are shared. Important theological and social issues are discussed. Culture is shaped. News is broken.
So, if Jesus valued spaces where people gathered, why aren’t more Christians on social media?
Here are a few responses I receive. “I just don’t see the point. Every time I get on Facebook or Twitter, some uninformed idiot posts a stupid remark, and I get mad.”
If you’re a Christian, I want to challenge you to consider how you use social media and why you use it. Millions of people spend time on some social media platform. Christians need to be there.
We don’t need to be there picking fights or ranting about the latest decision from the government. We don’t need to be there comparing our lives to others. We need to be there with intentionality. We need to engage social media like Jesus would.
Here are six ways Jesus would engage social media.
1.) Jesus would engage social media with a purpose, not as a means to pass the time.
You can disagree with me on whether Jesus would be on social media. But here’s what you can’t disagree with. If Jesus were on social media, he would have a purpose. He wouldn’t troll around Facebook or Twitter. He wouldn’t use social media to pass the time. He wouldn’t inject his thoughts on the President or the state of the church.
When Jesus opened Facebook, Twitter or SnapChat, he would have one goal: to point people to God.
“But Frank. I’m too old to keep up with all the new technology. Frank, I don’t have anything to add.”
To be honest, those excuses aren’t good enough. Social media shapes culture, ignites movements and informs millions of people.
The world is on social media. Christians should be there. With a purpose.
Send someone an encouraging message. Tweet a Bible verse. Tell someone you are praying for them. Post a resource that helps others.
This is a stewardship issue. Yes, I believe God will hold us accountable for how we use this huge platform.
Are you stewarding your time on social media well? Are you using it for selfish reasons? Are you building your platform or using your platform to point people to God? Are you a social media glutton, scrolling through feeds but never adding anything?
Jesus would engage social media with a purpose. You should too.
2.) Jesus would follow, share and retweet a lot of people who aren’t Christians.
Jesus ate dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors. He was intentional about extending his circle beyond his 12 disciples. He came to call the sinners, not the righteous.
So, if Jesus were on social media, he would like, share and retweet comments that would leave many “righteous” Christians shaking their heads in disgust.
“Can you believe Jesus shared Barack Obama’s post? I thought all Christians were Republican?”
“Did you see where Jesus liked that gay couple’s post?”
“OMG?! Jill, come here. Jesus just retweeted … Rob Bell!! How can he be the son of God?”
I love Rob Bell, just for the record.
Here’s the deal. In my conversations with Christians about social media, many of them talk about “un-friending” someone who curses or drinks. Unfortunately, the perspective of many Christians on social media is strikingly similar to the one they have toward the world. If it’s evil or nasty, get it away.
Jesus came to affirm all people, not stroke the egos of the religious elite. He came to engage darkness, not run from it. How will Christians impact those who don’t know about Jesus if we “unfriend” someone every time they don’t act like a “churchy” Christian?
Maybe it’s time to reconsider who we engage on social media and why. I think Jesus would.
3.) Jesus would intentionally disengage from social media to engage with his Father.
Jesus spent nights alone. He woke up early in the morning to engage with his Father. Let’s not assume Jesus would be any different with social media. He wouldn’t feel obligated to respond to every post or comment “promptly.” He wouldn’t allow his presence online to distract him from the presence of God.
You see, where you spend your time shapes how you respond to the world. Why did Jesus allow the Pharisees to spit in his face when he could have turned them into salt? He didn’t have anything to prove to them. His goal was to draw the world to himself, not show the Pharisees who their daddy was (literally). What you allow into your heart determines who you become.
If you’re more eager to check a social media status than spend time alone with God, there is a problem. If your first instinct is to reach for your phone after the alarm clock sounds, a red flag should go up. I will admit. This is an issue for me. And I plan to be more intentional about disengaging from social media.
Jesus wouldn’t allow social media to control him. He wouldn’t compare his life to others. You shouldn’t either.
4.) Jesus would use social media to complement personal relationships, not replace them.
Jesus would not allow social media to replace the messiness of face-to-face relationships. Jesus knew his mission depended on other people. The mission was huge. It required courage and faith. To prepare these men, he needed to be with them. He needed to build their trust. He had to develop intimacy with them. These are difficult to nurture online.
Social media presents a dangerous temptation, especially to a younger generation. The temptation is to believe a bunch of shallow relationships are more important than a few deep, meaningful ones.
Remember. Jesus didn’t rely on large crowds to spread his message. He relied on 12 men.
Are intimate relationships hard work? Is it easier to build friends online? Yes and yes. But God didn’t create you for shallow relationships. He created you to go deep with people. He designed you to share the burdens of other people.
I love my online community. They encourage me. They challenge me. But my online community will never replace my real life community. My local community cries with me. I cry with them. They know my heart.
You need people in your life who know the real you. You can have a huge social media following, but your life will feel empty if you don’t have people in your life who know your heart.
5.) Jesus would fill his social media profiles with more than Bible verses.
Would Jesus post Bible verses? Sure. But Jesus wouldn’t limit his social media profiles to Scripture alone. Jesus would use his platform to show the world a complete picture of God. Jesus would post pics of wedding celebrations, funny moments and thought-provoking questions.
It’s unfortunate that most Christians paint a picture of God that is narrow and incomplete. Most Christians paint God with a suit-and-tie, grey hair (with a slightly receding hairline) and someone who makes it his goal to single-handedly squash out anything that looks like fun.
Here’s the truth about God. He has a sense of humor. He used a donkey’s rear-end to get a man’s attention. … That’s hilarious. God celebrates. He parties. Jesus performed his first miracle at a party, turning water into wine … that’s the kind of dude I want to party with.
If you’re a Christian, by all means, post Bible verses. But don’t be lame. Show the world a bigger picture of God. Post pics of you having fun with friends. When you celebrate a milestone, let the world know. #celebratingwithmyboy.
6.) Jesus would NOT post his most intimate moments on social media.
Jesus might use social media to inform people about his next stop. He might post pics with his disciples. But you would not find his most intimate moments on social media. I can imagine Jesus instructing his disciples to leave their iPhones at the door as they prepared to take the Passover. When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, that moment wouldn’t be for the world.
Social media is slowly destroying the mystery and privacy of our lives. And this is important because intimacy dies as privacy and mystery die. God is mysterious. And, being created in his image, there is a layer of mystery and privacy required to maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves, God and others.
God created you to enjoy life, not capture it through a camera lens.
We are so busy capturing life on a camera or in 140 characters that we don’t enjoy it. Considering the direction of our country, maybe it’s time to ask some hard questions.
Would your family be healthier if you lived in that special moment with your children rather than reaching for your phone to capture it?
Would your marriage benefit from fewer #datenight pics on Instagram and more date nights with the phone at home?
Would society be less cynical and more hopeful if you didn’t use social media as a personal sounding board for life’s frustrations?
Decide for yourself, but, for me, the answer to these questions is YES.
Social media is an enormous tool to point people to Jesus. It’s not a tool to troll our friends, rant about the President or waste massive amounts of time.
To engage social media like Jesus would requires intentionality. It requires a firm understanding of our identity in God. I know I have a lot of work to do. But if every Christian decided to take one step toward intentionality, the impact would be enormous.
What do you think? How would Jesus engage social media if he were alive today? Leave a comment below.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!