The internet can be exhausting. And that’s on the good days.
The pull of our screens—and the interactions they mediate—is often more spiritually taxing than we realize or care to admit. I have yet to hear someone return from a digital fast and say, “Wow, that was terrible.” Usually it’s more like, “Wow, I feel human again.”
Scripture calls us to “honor everyone” (1 Peter 2:17). Obeying that command has never been easy, but has it ever been harder than in our social media age? Thankfully, Scripture gives us guidance. Here are four ways to be a faithful Christian online.
Take (Typed) Words Seriously
Most believers are aware that Scripture has a lot to say about the power of words. The passages are numerous. We know them. They are neither confusing nor obscure: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37). “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
Do some of us still harbor the idea that typed words are somehow less direct, less real than spoken words? Surely, Jesus won’t subject them to the same scrutiny. Twitter is too trivial for judgment day, right?
The reality is that when we stand before King Jesus, our “online selves” will be held to account. Our online selves are our real selves, after all.
Humanize the Other Tribe
In his book How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds, Alan Jacobs reflects on the human tendency to be constantly clarifying—and widening—the chasm between our perceived opponents and ourselves. We depersonalize in order to delegitimize. Yet such social habits come at a steep cost—and not just to our enemy. Jacobs observes, “We lose something of our humanity by militarizing discussion and debate; and we lose something of our humanity by demonizing our interlocutors.”
This doesn’t mean we should downplay truth. But love remembers this: people are far more than the sum of their sometimes mistaken positions. The image they bear doesn’t ride on the views they hold.
Besides, some of our views are wrong, too. So we must proceed with humility. Not cowardice, not tepidness, not silence. Humility.