I was recently unfriended on Facebook. Shocking, I know. It may (or may not) surprise you to hear that it was by one of the most vocal promoters of tolerance and acceptance in my cyber Rolodex. For those of you who don’t already know, the Facebook stages of grief are: disbelief, outrage, snark, questioning and acceptance. Funny that last one. In this use I actually mean acceptance. Not the one practiced by my now ex -friend. And if you want to take it further (and be biblical while you’re at it), follow acceptance up with a blessing.
Now that my time of mourning has concluded, I thought I’d share with you a bit about my Facebook philosophy.
Foremost Christian friends, you are missionaries. If you didn’t know it, go review 1 Peter and then come on back. We are to be a royal priesthood to the world and our Facebook activity is just one more avenue for Him to be known. But, like in all the other facets of life, your method will speak as loudly, or louder even, as your message. In that vein, I advise the following guidelines.
(On the off chance that you are one of those Christians who re-posts every pro-life meme, refuses to like anything from George Takei, and never fails to share unflattering pictures of Obama, you may want to print these up and tape them next to your computer. I have made a nice header just for you.)
FACEBOOK RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
- Use Facebook as an opportunity to give. Be generous (and honest) with your “likes” and comments. Maybe you don’t agree with everything that your friend says and does, but like her selfie, his SHOW OFF risotto creation, and her SHOW OFF pics from Cabo. Facebook offers so many ways to SHOW OFF, I mean, “connect and share with the people in your life.” But as the sage, most wise, gracious and alarmingly charming Frau M says, “make deposits so when it is time to withdraw you have plenty of credit”. Give generously.
- When someone exposes their grief, fear or weakness, rush to them. This is best done underground (messaging) so you are writing to them only and not to gain favor from those who would read your comment, no matter how much wisdom and fabulousness you are dishing out. Do not simply type “I’m praying for you.” Ask if you can pray for them, wait for an answer, and message a prayer immediately. Get it? Write the prayer to them. God hears you even when you are typing. Then give any possible, real world, tangible help for their situation. Write them a week or two later to follow up.
- Extend friendship liberally. In general, I don’t friend people I don’t know in real life. I do however, sometimes reluctantly, accept invitations from people radically different than I, whether it be their place in life or world view. Remember, the goal of life and Facebook is not to create a safe Christian haven for ourselves. The point is to let people see us live- the struggles and longings, as well as the victories and provisions. This is our primary apologetic, which is not about proving ourselves strong, but about revealing a mighty God. Invite everyone in.
- No drive-bys allowed. If you choose to get into a conversation about a sensitive topic (and I would suggest that initiating controversy should be rare), you must go all the way. It is incredibly bad form to lob a fireball into the thread and chicken out. We are called to be courageous, not cowardly. We must neither bend God’s truth to fit the audience, nor allow our hearts to be calloused to the ones with whom we are speaking. Be gentle and stand firm for as long as the discussion lasts.
- No un-friending. Inevitably, there are times where you will clash with your Facebook friends, especially if you have connections to those whose worldview drastically differs from yours. Believe me, there have been times when I have wanted to anesthetize my news feed by unfriending or blocking someone for whom hostility is recreational. But we are called to be salt and light and that means that when we are uncomfortable, we don’t get to withdraw. And don’t use that “throwing pearls before swine” excuse for retreating into a cushy virtual-world because Jesus also said “do not resist an evil man.” We can be discerning about what to say and when, while we extend ourselves to all.
So there you have it, replete with bullet points. (Readers like lists, I’m told.) I would love to hear your thoughts on Facebook as a tool for sharing God’s truth and loving others. So… what would you add?