A few months ago, I sat in front of my laptop deep in thought, my cursor hovering over the word “unfriend”.
Right then, I unexpectedly visualized the last person I knew of who had “unfriended” me.
I had been unfriended before but this time was different.
This time, the person was a beloved and respected friend, someone who played an impactful role in my life and my husband’s.
Instead of talking to us personally about an issue, this person chose to abruptly end all contact. It’s been about a year, and though I’ve forgiven them, the pain from that choice still runs deep. With one click, they removed all symbolism of a relationship with us.
Suddenly, I was back in reality, cursor still suspended over that button. I was about to do the same thing to another person I once had a real connection with, someone who had done significant damage in my life. And then some familiar words moved in over the whole scene and stopped me.
“The love of Christ controls us.”
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV (emphasis mine)
Months later, I sat in a restaurant across from a new friend and her baby. I knew more about her than she knew about me simply because I’ve been following her on her social media platforms for some time. I admire the beautiful job she does of sharing her life openly, yet with discretion.
We had connected quickly over similar experiences so I felt brave enough to ask her the question that I’ve posed to several friends recently: “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how social media is a way of engaging in hospitality. What do you think about that?”
She immediately answered, “Yes! I was just journaling about that this morning.” And then we went on to talk a little bit about what that might look like, and the vulnerability of using the Internet to share our lives and welcome others in.
This last year, my husband and I were trying to sort through a particular trial. As we watched and experienced first-hand how some people choose to use social media to hurt each other, I was led to pull back quite a bit, not posting as much and being even more selective about how and what I shared.
In that season, I wrestled with questions about the true purpose of social media. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that even though I can’t change how other people choose to use their accounts, there is one question I ought to be asking myself:
What should my social media accounts look like if I belong to Jesus Christ?
I’ve become more and more convicted that social media is a type of front door in our culture today – a place where biblical hospitality can happen organically by:
Inviting people into my life and welcoming them.
Connecting people and enjoying fellowship.
Sharing joy and thanksgiving by letting people know what’s going on with my family.
All of us who belong to Christ (Romans 1:6) are given the privilege of comforting others with the same comfort that God has used to comfort us (2 Corinthians 1:4). So in that sense, we can be transparent, fearlessly sharing how He is working in our lives. That’s part of why I love writing and discussing issues with people.
As I reflect on this question about my personal use of social media, I’m convinced there are also at least three things that social media is not for.
It’s not there for me to parade my accomplishments or myself.
The temptation to show off is very real. Facebook gives us all free access to everyone who will let us display what we’ve got. Instagram gives us filters to make everything look cuter and templates to make our worlds appear more pristine.
I don’t think this is necessarily wrong at all. I absolutely love beautiful spaces and charming scenes. But God has been working on my heart in a way that has made me want to check myself before I post. Because I belong to Christ, I really want to make sure I’m using my social media ultimately to make God’s name famous, not my own.
It’s not my chance to air grievances.
Because I belong to Christ, I don’t want to use social media to post passive-aggressive statements, vague statuses for attention-grabbing, or generally fussy complaints.
It’s also not an opportunity to publicly stick it to someone else.
I need to address personal problems with someone personally, and not “unfriend” someone due to feelings of anger or frustration. Social media is not my personal weapon to wield against people who irritate or wrong me. Because I belong to Christ, if I feel I’ve been wronged or have unknowingly wronged another, we need to discuss it privately (Matthew 18, Luke 17).
When I post a picture or statement, or share an article, I’m inviting people into my life. Just like I would welcome someone at the door of my house, I want the people who look at my Facebook, Instagram, or blog to be welcomed and to know more about who I am, but most importantly to encounter who God is and how His grace transforms us.
My husband and I regularly ask our children the question, “What did God make your mouth (or hands, etc.) for?” They know the answer by heart very well.
“To praise Him and to bless people.”
“So are you using your mouth to bless right now?” When I ask my kids that question, it’s often meant as a quick reminder because they’re not praising God or blessing people with their mouth or hands. But that’s not the end of the story. We work with them on repentance, restoration, and making conscious changes.
When I ask myself that question about my life, if the answer is no, it doesn’t just end there for me. Because I belong to Christ, I can take all of my misuse of social media to the cross of Jesus, and walk away freed from using my outlets the wrong way. I can make changes to how and what I post and renew my commitment to using my voice the right way.
I belong to Christ, so I no longer live for myself, but for Him. My mouth, my home, my social media, are all intended to praise God and to bless people.
Maybe you’ve spent a long season of wrestling, too, sitting with all of the issues, and trying to sort through them. Or maybe you’re struggling right now with using your social media to praise God and to bless people. If that’s the case, please know that you’re not alone.
There is forgiveness and freedom in Christ and it’s never too late to begin to transform our social media presence into a place of hospitality. We can invite one another in to share joys, sorrows, and our thankfulness for God’s work in us.