As I prepared for the closing comments at MB Seminary’s recent Navigate event (What Would Jesus Tweet?), I spent some time reflecting on Paul’s world in the first century. One of Paul’s primary interests was wrestling with how disciples should follow Jesus and be witnesses in the cultures and contexts they found themselves in. I imagined what Paul might say about social media today and quickly realized that every one of his New Testament letters could speak directly and specifically into our digital age, with very little need for cultural translation. With that in mind, here is what I imagine Paul might say if his language were to be adapted to speak about social media in 2021.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use the freedom of social media to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against having these postures online, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us use social media in step with the Spirit. When we view other’s posts online, let us not compare, become conceited, provoke, or envy each other. (adapted from Galatians 5:13, 22-26)
In your social media accounts, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Be very careful, then, how you post, share, and reply—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (adapted from Ephesians 5:3-4, 15)
Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—post and share about such things. (adapted from Philippians 4:8)
We could go through the rest of the scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, and find countless encouragements about how to be disciples and witnesses today. In one sense, social media changes nothing. We have always been called to live like Jesus. But in many ways, social media changes everything (as was explored through the Navigate event). May we take Paul’s words to heart and use social media to create thriving communities, to develop healthy relationships, and to be positive witnesses for Jesus!
[Mark Wessner is President at MB Seminary and Associate Professor of Biblical Studies for Leadership.