The Perversion of Social Media Amongst the Flock

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When I was younger we thought two tin cans attached by a string made for great communication devices for our war time games.  If we wanted to catch up with a friend we had to use a land-line telephone-that’s a phone that actually had to plug into a wall for your millennials.  Now we can reach out and touch like never before in real time with friends and family across the oceans by way of social media vehicles and smart phones.  I am an avid user of such media and have to admit that  without it I may have never reconnected with some of my childhood and school friends and caught up on their lives hundreds or thousands of miles apart.  And who doesn’t enjoy watching cat videos to pass the time.

The number of active accounts on social media is mind boggling.  On Facebook alone there were over 1.65 BILLION active accounts as of April 2016!  I would swear some of my FB friends know every last one of them. The potential to reach the masses has never been greater or easier as it is now with everyone having access to these media outlets right on their personal smart phones.  But like any good invention it didn’t take long for some of us to pervert it and abuse it to the detriment of many.  Specifically I am addressing us church folks who have used it to preach false doctrines, perpetuate hate and alienate Christian siblings who have differing views on social, political and religious issues. I have witnessed just within my limited circle of friends how harmful social media can be when used for the wrong purpose.  It can be embarrassing, hurtful and quite frankly, not very Christ-like.

There is a verse, Mark 13:10 that says the Good News must first be preached to all nations.  The worldwide usage of social media may be the very vehicle God intends for us to use to fulfill that requirement. In countries where Bibles are not allowed, study can still be done discreetly on smart phones  by way of URLs to Bible sites.  The Word is going forth by way of social media into areas where Christianity is otherwise forbidden. The impact social media has on spreading the Good News can not and must not be ignored. The potential for people to be pointed to the only source of salvation, Jesus Christ has never been greater. But alas, just as there are those who use the very Word of God to divide and tear down instead of its intended purpose of offering hope, there are those who abuse sites like Facebook to bring harm and disruption and discord among the Church. For me this  a travesty, and one I have been guilty of myself in years past.

If you are concerned about your activity on social media let me suggest the following verses as a measuring stick regarding social media posts:

1 Thessalonians 5:11; “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”

Hebrews 10:24; “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…”

Romans 14:19; “So let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding”

Eph. 4:29; “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths but only what is good for building up”

1 Peter 2:1-24; “Put away all malice, deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. Be like living stones used to build a spiritual house…

Exodus 23:1; “You shall not spread a false report.  You shall not join with a wicked man to be a false witness.”  (This is a biggie on social media, sharing uncorroborated posts).

Does this mean we have to type “Amen” to every lame meme that comes into our box, of course not-that is only another form of a false doctrine.  However it does mean that we need to be aware that our social media posts may as well be billboards for the number of people who will come across them in your circle.  There is but one truth, one Holy Gospel and not a myriad of relative truths based on our socio, economic, political or religious persuasion. To cause others to stumble in the faith is irresponsible at best, and to turn someone who is genuinely seeking away from the truth because of a hateful or divisive post is simply unforgivable. Don’t be like I once was, guilty of perverting a tool that should have been used to exhort, not destroy.  Peace.

 

 

 

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Cyber Whisperers

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A woman heard a rumor about a lady in her neighborhood that was too good to pass up.  Being the busybody she was she quickly spread this rumor to those in her social circle. Word quickly spread and the lady who was the object of the rumor was soon shunned by even her close friends.  Not long afterward the neighbor who initially spread the rumor learned from a trusted source that what she had heard was not true. Feeling remorseful she sought out the advice of her priest on how to fix the situation.  Her priest told her to go to a local farmer and get a chicken and pluck the feathers out one by one on her walk home.  This sounded easy enough so she complied.  The next day she reported to the priest that she had done as he instructed her.  “Good”, said the priest.  “Now today, go back and collect those same feathers”. The neighbor lady retraced her steps but to her dismay found that most of the feathers had already been carried off by the wind.  She returned to the priest holding three single feathers.  “And so it is with rumors”, sad the priest. “Once you have spread them it is impossible to gather them back up before they are carried away by the wind”‘.

Yes, if you are in my social media circles you know I have been on a kick about cyber gossip. We all remember the story years back of Megan Meier, the teen whose friend Josh along with his mother launched a bunch of rumors that quickly spread through the Myspace world and eventually led Megan to commit suicide.  Words, whether spoken or shared on cyberspace are harmful, destructive and in many cases fatal. There are countless pages of examples of murder, assault and suicide over something that was shared or read on the internet, many of which turned out to be false but discovered too late to prevent the damage. Facebook seems to have made everybody an expert on everything and there seems to be no limits as to how far some will go in posting articles they know to be false in order to stir up the flock, increase ratings and likes or support social agendas in a manner that takes away any credibility from the core issues.

Backbiting is nothing new-there really is nothing new under the sun.  The Apostle Paul had to address this in Biblical times in his letter to the Romans.  In the KJV gossipers are referred to as whisperers and secret slanderers.  Here is how the passage reads in the Message Bible, Romans 1:29:

And then all hell broke loose; rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on Earth with their envy, wanton, killing, bickering and cheating. Look at them-mean spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers and insufferable windbags!”

It is no accident that gossip, slanderers and whisperers are mentioned right along with murderers because destruction by tongue is just as deadly as by gun. Not convinced? Proverbs says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue“. 1 Peter says “Whoever desires to love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit”. 

Still not enough, then let’s read the words straight from our Master Jesus recorded in Matthew 12: “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will give account for every CARELESS word they speak…”

Any accepted form of communication, spoken word, letter, email, or cyber media where ideas, stories or rumors can be spread falls under the edict from the verses listed above pertaining to gossip.  Any information spread without due diligence as to its accuracy, credibility or truthfulness equates to gossiping and rumormongering. We who use social media as outlets for communication need to be a little less right and a bit more righteous in our discernment in being involved in cyber rumors and hate speech when nothing but destruction can be the end result. Disagreeing, having opinions, stating personal beliefs that are characterized as such is not what I am referring to.  However sharing malicious posts, pushing along false theories and butchered photo-shop images to support a trending social agenda should be off base for believers who are concerned with being Christ-like in all things. With the 2016 Campaign season getting into full swing I fear many of the faith will get themselves caught up in polarizing threads that do nothing but harm to the Body of Christ, just as they have with recent trending stories “too good to pass up”.

My prayer for me is that God will help me recognize my weakness and temptation to be pulled into these cyber rumor mills and give me the strength to just shut up opposed to saying something hurtful that can’t be retracted.  I hope your prayer is similar.

 

The Fall of the Divided Church

If a house is divided against itself the house can not stand

Mark 3:25

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I must state that my heart aches a bit as I write this because it involves family, the church.  All of us hold close ties to our families and we find our identity in the heritage and legacy of our family names.  This could not be more true for our universal and eternal church family.  To see us suffering is heart breaking.

Social media has afforded many of us a platform which can be used as a positive or negative influence. It is highly public and closely followed yet individually private so that one can speak freely without fear of anything more than a few critical comments or sad faced emoticons. This type of freedom has led many to spew forth previously held deep seeded opinions in the name of Christ that are hurtful and divisive. And there has been no lack of opportunity due to recent events to show the world just how divided the church family can be at times.  The Ferguson situation has shed light on the real and shameful racial divisions in the body.  The on going homosexual debate has revealed divides along theological and socially relevant factions. The upcoming elections are already showing forth the ugliness between brothers who differ in political opinions. And even seemingly harmless debates on social websites about church issues like tongues or the rapture or end times events can create hard line “us against them” sides that go from reasoning together to picking up verbal stones. To watch, read and at times be caught up in some of these inter-family battles is so disheartening and disturbing to me.  What’s worse is that when I choose to abstain for the sake of the body and my own self preservation in the faith I’m often reprimanded for not picking a side or being deemed guilty even in my silence.  What a horrible message we are sending the world who is ever watching us.  Yes, this is heart breaking on many levels.

I was involved in a local church split once. I’m not sure I can even recall what the issue was but it was great enough to cause some to leave the church and for the pastor to step away.  It was one of the most painful experiences I’ve endured as a believer. It was worse than my divorce. Friends and family I had worshiped with for so long were now pitted against each other in a silly dispute that caused us to go separate ways.  It took a long time for those relationships to be mended and restored.  Although highly painful it was localized.  But when the same thing happens on a much grander scale the impact and tremors are felt in the whole body and the damage is sometimes irreversible. And the whole world sees our dirty laundry and scratches their heads.

The scriptural concepts of iron sharpening iron and sitting in the counsel of the Godly imply and encourage a loving and open meeting of the minds, something that the church has done since the first church in Acts. We come from different backgrounds, different economic stations, different life circumstances and different maturity levels in our faith.  We are not expected to be the same and a body functions best when those differences are not only recognized but utilized for Hid glory and the health of the church.  As Paul compares the church body to the human body we all find our place even with differing strengths and ideals, doing all we do for the glory of God.  But when those differences become fed not by love but by pride or self-centered motives that taint the brotherly love we are exhorted to display, the hard human spirit with it’s vile, envy and hatred fights for our thoughts and hearts like a wild male animal fighting for mating rights. The battle is ugly, brutal and sometimes fatal. We are warned against this in several passages.

James 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.

Mark 7:21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Ephesians 4:3 Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Matt. 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire

When I’m caught in the midst of some of these harsh social debates I’m reminded of the words of Christ when he says that the world will know we are his followers when they see, hear and read our love for each other, and again His command that we love one another even as He loves us.  I can’t say with any conviction that I can read or see this love on social websites and God forgive me if I too have shown less than brotherly love in my responses to these recent issues.  If I am called an idiot for my beliefs I’m cool with that. But if that remark comes from a brother or sister in Christ then I become concerned not for me but for who might be reading these comments.  If we as a body and the Church can not be united in love and be able to discuss in peace our opinions on hot topics, then how can we expect to attract the unchurched. Back in the day Christian recording artist Carmen came out with a song entitled I Want Some of Dat, referring to the love and joy he found in Christians to the point of wanting some for his own. Can the world see our dysfunction as it stands and genuinely say I want what he’s having?  I doubt it.  God have mercy on your church and forgive us those things which cause us harm and which cause You dishonor.

 

See No Evil

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We live in an evil world. We always have. Perhaps it is more so now, or maybe we are just more aware through social technology. When I was a boy (can’t believe that just came out of my mouth) I remember Harry Reasoner and Walter Cronkite being our major source of World News, in addition to the printed newspaper. If they didn’t report on it, the American public didn’t know about it. My how times have changed!

Now with the advent of the internet and social vehicles like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the likes, we are made more aware of the atrocities that are taking place all around the world in real time. The only people who can claim ignorance to world affairs are those with no TV, no computer, no smart phones and no newspaper service.  With all the advances in communications technology, you just can’t avoid the flood of available information on any current issue unless you are a hermit. To some the news is a sad story; to others it becomes a burden to help bear.

Consider some of the news stories in recent months:

* 276 girls abducted from a Nigerian school, yet to be found, feared sold into slavery or sex trafficking

* 500 children age 2 to 18 found living in a Mexican refuge among rats, cleaned only to be abused then returned

* 25 Children killed in Elementary school bombing in Syria

* 250 Christian girls gang raped in villages near Chibok in the name of Allah

* 48 Christians shot in head in Kenyan village while watching World Cup

The list is intense and overwhelming. To the Christian believer, it is a burden to heavy to bear. Galatians 6:2 exhorts us to carry each others burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”. Romans 12:15 asks us to “mourn with those who mourn”.  The question becomes how can we be made aware of these end times atrocities without being brought to our knees in prayerful lamentations on behalf of the victims and their families.

We each have our own dose of issue to deal with in this life, sickness, unemployment, relationships, finances, etc. There are no shortage of burdens to go around. But Christ compels us to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies, in the midst of our own battles-to be spiritually and socially conscious of the plight of our brothers and sistesr in the Lord and the innocent children so precious to God. We can not afford to claim ignorance given the aforementioned media outlets at our constant disposal.  We are to be the arms, the legs, the feet, the heart and the tears of Christ when confronted with these stories and to bear in prayer the burdens of our neighbors, regardless of their religious or political persuasion, or their nationality. They are no longer a world removed-they are are backyard neighbors.

I am so discouraged when I see a story on Facebook for instance, about Hobby Lobby policies getting 1000-2000 likes or comments or anti Government posts receiving hits all day long, but a Christian pastor being jailed or kids being abused in another country going unnoticed as if we have closed our eyes to the real evils of our world in order to engage in the superficial and non-eternal affairs of hollyweird gossip or political stone throwing.  The body of Christ needs to be more engaged in the injustices being perpetrated on the innocent and the voiceless.

Father of all mercies, give us a heart of sincere compassion with eyes wide open for those who suffer and make us ever mindful that your Son died for the salvation of all!  Help us understand the eternal value of a life lived and a life lost. Forgive us our complacency and heal our eyesight and our hearing so we may see and hear the cries of the hurting and respond in kind with the love of our Savior.