A web of wisdom: social media to the glory of God #4

We're making progress, and I will bundle all these links in due course, but for now we have had . . .

Here are principles 4, 5 and 6.

4. Consider your testimony and character (digital footprint).
  • The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. (Prv 11.30)
  • As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion. (Prv 11. 22)
  • The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but the words of the pure are pleasant. (Prv 15.26)
  • Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right. (Prv 20.11)
  • Like a bird that wanders from its nest is a man who wanders from his place. (Prv 27.8)
  • The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. (Prv 29.25)

A 'digital footprint' is the mark you leave behind as you make your way through the online world: it is the electronic shape of who you are and what impact you are having. I say unequivocally that a man or woman's involvement in social media, as to its matter and manner, should change decisively at conversion. Salvation should alter your footprint as much in the online realm as in the real world. Many Christians seem to fear the face of men as much if not more in their online interaction as anywhere else. It is frankly embarrassing and genuinely tragic how few Christians appear to have any distinctively Christian contribution to make online, no savour of Christ to carry with them into cyberspace. Where is the outshining godliness that ought to mark the saints? I am, of course, not suggesting that your contributions should consist solely of Bible quotes and stanzas of hymns, but are the contours of Christlikeness evident in the things you say, like, and follow online? If you are a professing disciple of Jesus Christ, would someone be able to read through a few days of your online interaction and legitimately and intelligently conclude who and whose you are? What do you like on Facebook? Who do you follow? What do you tweet or comment? There may be a problem with some who have an online Christian persona and offline prove it a lie; far more grievous is the professing Christian whose digital footprint leaves not a hint of any nailmarks. Here is a chance to let your light shine clearly before men, rather than drawing a veil over or bringing a slur upon true religion. We ought to shine - deliberately and proactively - as much online as we do offline, and that, friends, may point us to the root of the problem.

5. Assess the nature and influence of the company you keep.

  • My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse" - my son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. (Prv 1.10-16)
  • Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways; for the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, but his secret counsel is with the upright. (Prv 3.31-32)
  • Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. (Prv 4.14-15)
  • The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Prv 12.26)
  • He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. (Prv 13.20)
  • Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge. (Prv 14.7)
  • A violent man entices his neighbour, and leads him in a way that is not good. (Prv 16.29)
  • A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Prv 18.24)
  • Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul. (Prv 22.24-25)
  • My son, fear the Lord and the king; do not associate with those given to change; for their calamity will rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin those two can bring? (Prv 24.21-22)
  • Whoever causes the upright to go astray in an evil way, he himself will fall into his own pit; but the blameless will inherit good. (Prv 28.10)
  • Whoever loves wisdom makes his father rejoice, but a companion of harlots wastes his wealth. (Prv 29.3)

We might debate the reality of Facebook friendship, but the company we keep is an indicator of where we stand and in which direction we will go. Who are you attracted to and to whom are you attractive? Look through your friends, those who follow you and whom you follow, your blog feeds and readers, your regular commenters, the lists of recommendations that pop up for you on YouTube. What do all these associations say about you? Would you want a loving Christian friend or a faithful pastor to get a printout of your viewing history, all your online association and interaction? If not, why not? Besides, the Lord already knows it. Ask yourself seriously who you are influencing, if anyone, and to what end or by whom you are being influenced, and in which direction. Are you lifting others up or being dragged down? Are you found among the wicked, the angry, the restless, the complaining, the vulgar, and - if so - why are you there and what are you doing? Or, does your path carry you among the wise, the righteous, the peaceful, the pure? Evil company will corrupt your behaviour online as much as offline (1Cor 15.33). Is it time to do some weeding, even some vigorous pruning, of your online interaction and acquaintance?

6. Involve wise counsellors, especially parents when you are younger.

  • Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: do not forsake my law . . . (Prv 4.1-27)
  • Therefore hear me now, my children, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honour to others, and your years to the cruel one; lest aliens be filled with your wealth, and your labours go to the house of a foreigner; and you mourn at last, when your flesh and your body are consumed, and say: "How I have hated instruction, and my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!" (Prv 5.7-13)
  • A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. (Prv 13.1)
  • A fool despises his father's instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent. (Prv 15.5)
  • Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. (Prv 19.20)
  • Cease listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Prv 19.27)

Do not be ashamed to take advice and to obtain accountability. Some of this depends on age and circumstance, so if you are younger, and have responsible, hopefully Christian, parents, then they should be one of your first ports of call. Otherwise, find switched on and plugged in (in every sense) saints of wisdom and maturity. There are services like Covenant Eyes that provide some helpful tools for accountability. But find faithful counsellors: give them access to your online activity, and seek their opinion. Get outside your normal circle, if need be, and find someone who will not necessarily tell you what you wish to be told: that is not seeking counsel, but looking for someone to applaud while you get on with whatever pleases you. Listen humbly to what your counsellors say, for far too much seeking of counsel is a desperate attempt to find someone who will confirm what you have already decided to do or tell you what you long to hear.

#5 to follow . . .