We live in a time where everyone is connected online. Most have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Pinterest boards and the like. We are in touch with each other more than ever. Yet we truly converse with people less now than we ever have. And this has created something that I believe has become problematic.
I joined Facebook some 5 years ago. Initially I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. What won me over was getting in touch with people that I hadn’t heard from in years. It also allowed me to stay in touch with people more regularly. I believe most users feel the same way. We get to see pictures of other’s families. We get to see the joys and struggles others are going through. We get to see the humor and pain in the lives of others. We also share the same about ourselves; all the while never leaving the comfort of our homes.
And this is the root of what I believe is a serious problem amongst users of these social network sights. The problem - taking disputes and disagreements online instead of to the person in private.
If you have been on Facebook for any amount of time you will have someone post/comment to you about a behavior they believe you are doing wrong. They will comment on a post you have made or post to your page directly; people have become so very bold out there in cyber space. The problem is that they took to Facebook before they went to you privately. To put it plainly this is a direct violation of Scripture.
We read in Matthew 18:15 the following from Christ:
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. (Emphasis added)
The first thing I want to point out is that correcting someone is a command from Christ. He tells us that if we see someone in sin to go to that person and point out the offense. This isn’t a problem on Facebook. So many people will call out people on Facebook for the wrong they are doing. But we must notice something else Christ tells us here and that is we are to go to them privately. Let’s make sure we understand, privately does not mean on the World Wide Web. Privately does not mean to post it on Facebook for all of your and their friends to see. This means that you go to that person and meet with them in private to discuss the issue.
As a side note, most of the “sin” that people confront online is more of a personal preference, which they consider to be sin, when in reality it isn’t. That is what the Pharisees did. And Christ rebuked them for that.
The worst offenders are those who write posts about people(s) but not mention the name(s) of the one(s) they are posting about. Another habit I have seen from people is that they will name a group of people but not the individual names of the people in that group. They will say something like, “well I didn’t use their name so it is ok to post this about them.” Yet by naming or describing the group they make it easy for others to know the specific individuals they are addressing about that sin, so in effect they have called them out by name. If we are honest with ourselves do we really believe that Christ, with His command in Matthew 18:15 to go that person individually, will be ok with that type of confrontation? I believe not.
I also feel like I need to clarify the difference between stating opinions and calling out people in their sins. Stating opinions is a good thing to do, even opinions about sin in general. Matthew 18:15 doesn’t apply to stating opinions. But to say a person or a group is in sin isn’t an opinion, it is calling out sin. And to do that without going to that person first is a violation of Matthew 18:15.
I understand why many of us go to Facebook first - it feels good. Don’t be shocked that I typed that. If you are honest with yourself you will agree. We do it to get things off of our chest. Blow off some steam. It makes us feel better to tell people off. And when we click “post” we feel like we have accomplished something. Yet all that we have actually done is to feed our flesh. And that isn’t a valid Biblical reason to do anything.
So why do we need to go to the person in private instead of on social media? Christ tells us why in the last part of Matthew 18:15 - to win that person back. This means that we have helped them to see the error of their ways, to repent and relationships are restored. This will only happen when we go to them in person, not when we take it online. Going online first normally leads to strife, anger, and broken relationships; the exact opposite of what Christ desires.
As I type this I see the irony of this post. Me saying that it is wrong to post about people without going to them first, yet it seems like I am doing that very thing. Honestly, I am posting this as much for me as for anyone else. Maybe I am confronting myself on social media. I’m sure that if I looked back over the history of my posts I would be guilty of going to social media before I went to people about things in their life they needed to change. I was wrong. I should have taken the time to visit with them in person about the issue. I am posting this not as a way to confront someone or get back at anyone in particular because they have done this to me. My goal with this post is to help us all, me included, to go to others before we go to social media (if even at all). That is the Godly way. That is the way that brings Him glory. That is the way to get the best, and should I say, desired, results.