Shining Like Stars Online: We are sent
Like many others, I’m sure, I’m often frustrated by the terribly written and poorly expressed ideas flooding the internet. Because our lives are so full of noise, it’s tempting to turn everything off, or fight the flippancy of overwhelming blabber with more flippancy, making smart-aleck remarks or using our social media platforms to tell the world what we ate for breakfast.
As Christians, however, I believe that we are called to something greater. With the rise of new media, we have been given a platform through which to share our divine hope, but many of us are intimidated from doing so.
Philippians 2:12-17 says: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”
No one who’s spent any amount of time online can doubt that we still live in a crooked and depraved generation – so why do we fear to shine like stars?
I think it’s because, in today’s polarized society, in which standing for something means we are against something else, we fear being misunderstood or shouted down. Most of us think that we have better things to do than engage with our belligerent co-worker or relative on issues of religion and culture, or we fear making enemies out of someone who we consider a friend. We are afraid of honesty, of saying too much and alienating others who don’t understand or are predisposed to disagree with our faith.
Of course, earlier in the passage Paul commands humility, and I’m not suggesting that we start pridefully whacking culture over the head with tracts. But I do think that we have slunk back from our Biblical place in a lost world. Through grasping hold of Jesus’ call to “let our light shine” and by allowing His grace to work in us, we are giving our lost world something it is desperate for: examples of God at work in real life, not far-off or unreachable, but in the day-to-day work and play of our lives.
We are told to shine like stars, speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), avoid Godless chatter (2 Timothy 2:16), and tell the Good News in a way that others may understand it (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).
Oddly enough, on the Internet – the very place that has become synonymous with lies, darkness and foolishness can also be a place of redemption and hope. Ephesians 5:8 says: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
We are not called to be aggressive or prideful with our opinions, but to shed light as redeemed children, as people who remember what darkness feels like and who want to help others find the light we now know. Online, through blogs, social media, podcasts and countless other mediums, we get the unique opportunity to share our faith with the world in a winsome and thoughtful way. We may indeed be mocked for our beliefs or endure some persecution for our honesty, in fact, later in the Ephesians passage, Paul mentions his own trials for his faith. As I write this, I realize that I’m writing to myself. I fear the scorn or mockery of my friends or even strangers in the online space. When I finally gather the courage to say something about my faith and convictions, I often fail to react as I should to criticism, unleashing a sinful barrage of human justification on my questioners. I strive to write online as a gracious, winsome apostle of Christ, and too often I fall short, coming across as a prideful, foolish disciple.
But in all of my failings, I see how God can still use me, as imperfect as I am, and, therefore, how He can use you too. There is such a hunger in our culture for honesty and unapologetic conviction. Christians are often called “backward” for holding to ancient precepts, and yet this is exactly what our world needs – a steadfast hope in Someone who does not change with the tides of pop culture.
Over the next few posts, I want to talk about how we can create a culture of discipleship and truth-seeking through unabashedly faithful new media outlets. Whether you are seeking to influence a friend on Facebook, are already an accomplished online writer or just thinking of starting a blog of your own, I hope that these posts will be encouraging and helpful to you.
Also, if you have any specific questions about online communication, blogging, social media use or any other medium from a faith-based perspective, I’d be happy to help. Please feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to address them.
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