I am often on Facebook and Twitter, and I enjoy it. (I also try and keep up with my kids and grandkids on Instagram and Snapchat, but I don’t post much there.) I use social media for fun, to communicate to people important to me, to promote my faith, beliefs, thoughts, actions, politics, and even (occasionally) to talk about my favorite sports teams.
If you’ve followed me on social media, then you’ve seen pictures of my wife, my kids, and my grandkids. You know that I am a follower of Jesus. You know that I love my church. You know that I love Arizona and the United States of America, and that I like to take photographs of some of the beautiful places in our country. And you probably know more than you want to know about the University of Arizona Wildcats, the where-are-they-now Raiders, and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But in recent years, I have become deeply dismayed by the online habits of many Christians who use social media in a way that pushes people away from Christ rather than draws them to Him. We rudely call out politicians and political parties rather than participate in respectful dialogue. We call people who disagree with us “idiots” (and that’s mild compared to some of the words used by believers.) We trash other religions in a way that is more likely to lead to hatred than to communicating the love of God. We ignore Biblical commands to love all people, to respect our leaders, and to do all things for the glory of God.
So I respectfully submit this code of ethics for believers to use while online:
I will abide by the same standards on social media that I use in my personal life. If I wouldn’t say it in a conversation with my wife and children and from the pulpit, I won’t say it or post it on social media.
I will not post anything that promotes profanity, racism, inaccurate news accounts, drug abuse, or hateful speech, nor will I link to a page that promotes any of these things.
I will never share or pass on material that could be spiritually harmful, emotionally disturbing, or purposely offensive to others. This includes but is not limited to things like pornography, graphic violence, or inappropriate pictures or videos.
I will not share my personal drama or personal complaints on social media. I will follow the teachings on Jesus—if I have an issue with a person, I will deal with it privately and personally.
I will not put down governmental leaders or public figures on social media. I can and will disagree with publicly taken stands and behavior, but I will do so with respect and without name-calling or ridicule. I will not knowingly misstate another’s opinion to make them look ridiculous, nor will I share any of the blatantly inaccurate or heavily-sarcastic articles, blogs, cartoons, pictures, or opinions that flood social media.
I will never knowingly embarrass or purposely offend a friend (or even an enemy) by sharing a humiliating or embarrassing photo or video. If in doubt about sharing a picture or video, I will seek permission first.
I will use social media to promote beliefs important to me, but I will not be offended when people disagree with me; I will treat their opinions with respect and ask them to do the same to me.
I will not be easily offended or overly critical of the posts of others. I am primarily concerned with policing myself—not others.
I will occasionally challenge a close friend or fellow believer if I believe that their use of social media is inappropriate, but I will do so in a private communication since I have no desire to publicly humiliate.
In short, I will use the teachings of Jesus’ Golden Rule to guide my life on social media.
Following Jesus is a full-time commitment. My speech and actions in the pulpit, in my home, among friends, when in public and when in private, and especially when I am on social media (for that is where many people outside of the faith will connect with me) must be a constant reflection of my commitments to love God, love people, and follow Jesus.
And that’s true for every believer!
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