I have a love/hate relationship with social media.
As a military spouse, I live far from my family, and most of my friends are scattered across the country. I love how social media allows me to still connect with them, stay engaged in their lives, and–let’s be honest–share funny memes. As a writer, I love how social media allows me to interact with readers and fans, sharing bits of the writing process with them as well as offering glimpses into my life and getting to see snippets of theirs. In short, I love the connectivity social media offers, even when physical closeness is impossible.
On the other hand, I hate false narratives social media allows people to propagate, whether it be “fake news” or “the highlight reel” of others’ lives that can cause you to feel down about the reality of your own. I hate the false courage it gives some people to be bullies and trolls, allowing them to say horrible, nasty things they’d never have the audacity to say in real life. I hate the mob mentality of “cancel culture,” which grows rampart there. Most of all, I hate the battleground nature of the comment section, which turns every single post into a debate, breeds divisiveness, and encourages an “I’m right/you’re wrong” mentality over anything from pizza toppings to politics.
Because, let’s face: “agree to disagree” is not an acceptable way to win a Facebook debate. As Americans, we love our free speech, and we will preach our rights until we’re blue in the face. It seems we all have a right, not only to disagree with you, but also to berate and belittle you until you see how stupid you are and how smart I am.
Don’t get me wrong: free speech is a wonderful thing, and it’s a blessing to live in a country in which I don’t have to live in fear (unless it’s from the cancel culture mob) for opening my mouth. But can free speech go too far?
Just because you have a right to say something…should you?
As Christians, I think this is an especially important question to consider. We live in a fallen, broken world where sin and divisiveness are all around. We live, work, and play with non-believers in a society that is increasingly hostile to our beliefs. There are no shortages of incidences in which we may feel compelled to challenge culture or defend our religion. After all, it’s our right as Americans.
But should we?
David wrote in Psalm 34: 12-14: “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days . . . turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Likewise, Paul writes in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on your, live at peace with everyone.”
We may have every right to comment on that anti-Christian Facebook post or leave a snarky reply to an offensive Tweet, but our Father commands us to seek peace–and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an argument on social media lead to peace within either arguing party.
You see, when someone comes up against your beliefs on social media, you don’t need to comment or wage a debate to prove you’re right–because, though Jesus Christ, you’ve already been proven righteousness.
Through the cross, your identity and your salvation are already set. You are a child of God, and your name is written in the Book of Life. God knows it. You know it. An anti-Christian Facebook post is not going to change that. A snide Tweet cannot change the cross or negate God’s promise.
So why do we still fret about it?
A wonderful example of peace-seeking can be found in the Old Testament. In Genesis 26, we find Isaac adjusting to his role as patriarch, his father Abraham having recently passed away. At the beginning of the chapter, God reaffirms His promise to Isaac, saying “…I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham” (vs.3).
Isaac and his family lived in peace with those already in the land for many years. He planted crops and prospered; prospered so much in fact, that Abimelech, king of the Philistines, asked him to move because he had become too wealthy and powerful.
Isaac could have said no. He could have raised a stink, throwing the promise of God in the king’s face. God had promised him this land, after all. Why should he move?
But, instead, “Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there” (vs. 17).
Not only that, he dug wells to provide water for his people and his animals, only to have the neighboring herdsmen argue over it, not once but twice. And yet again, rather than argue, Isaac gave up the wells, stopping only when he’d dug one no one disputed.
“…Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land” (vs. 22b).
Isaac had a right to all the land. He had been promised it by God. He could have very easily staked his claim and refused to move or to give up the precious fresh water he’d found. But he didn’t. He chose peace.
He willingly gave up some of his rights in order to maintain peace with his neighbors. He knew God’s promises. More importantly, he knew God and who he was IN God. He didn’t need to argue or fight with his neighbors about it. He was secure enough in his identity and his faith to choose God’s peace over his own rights.
And what happened? “Meanwhile, Abimelech has come to him from Gerar…Isaac asked them, ‘Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?’ They answered, ‘We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us”–between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not moles you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. An now you are blessed by the Lord'” (vs. 26-29).
Through Isaac’s obedience and commitment to peace, non-believers were inspired to seek peace as well. Through Isaac’s meekness, they saw God.
Isaac could have stood up for himself. He could have demanded his rights, thinking he was defending God and His promises. But he chose peace. And he was blessed through it–and became a blessing to others. Most importantly, however, God was glorified.
Now, a caveat here:
I am not against theological debates. A calm, sensible discussion about God, especially your testimony and reasons for your faith, can be a powerful witness and begin opening doors to a reawakened spirit. However, these are very rarely the type of deep, meaningful conversations you are going to have in the comment section of a Facebook post. Your goal as a Christian is to be aware of opportunities in which to share your faith and the goodness of God–not argue with non-believers about why they are wrong about everything and are going to hell. The peace of God is what will win over non-believers, the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit on a soul that’s ready to listen; not snarky, mocking comments or name-calling.
While I do believe we should be ready to defend our faith should the need arise, I do not believe every derogatory social media post requires us to take up our sword and shield. Our goal should be to “seek peace and pursue it,” as Isaac did when he ceded land and rights to his neighbors. For us, I believe this means that 99% of the time, we should just keep on scrolling.
We don’t need to be right on Facebook or Twitter because we are already righteous.
“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is a mighty rock, my refuge” (Psalm 62:7).