Over a decade ago, I joined a social media platform as a way of staying connected with my friends and family in the United States. The ability to share fun stories, immediate and needed prayer requests, photos, anecdotal tales from our three sons, and my blog posts was a sweet blessing. Honestly, I believe that keeping in touch with my family and friends through social media was one of the tools that the Lord used to encourage me while I lived in South Africa.
We called each other friends and we identified with each other as friends.
Over time, more people asked to join my friends’ list. My caveat for accepting friend’s requests was that there had to be a connection with a person or group that I knew personally. I did not just ‘add’ someone to my life. And before long, there were many people in my friends’ listing – a good many were my family and close, close friends and associates. Yet, others were people I did not know – but knew of. I often wondered why they wanted to be my friend on social media – especially when we did not have any real connection in the real world.
This social media platform worked for me, though. It still does in many respects. My life purpose is to encourage others and bless them with the love of Jesus. This is what I am all about it. I feel it. I think it. I breathe it. And I share it.
Yet, over time, something happened on this social media platform.
Instead of sharing fun photos, anecdotal stories, joys, and yes, sorrows, some ‘friends’ stopped sharing and started spewing. I am not sure why. Some will say their insults and rants were because of this person or that person, this ideology or that ideology, this political bent or that political bent, or this perceived threat or that perceived threat – or something else entirely. The reasoning was that friends could not stay ‘silent’ any longer about their convictions.
Did this help?
Did the malevolence bring us together?
Did the blame, the criticism, or the spite lift our spirits?
Are we stronger, brighter, and happier?
Are we better friends?
People are quitting social media in droves now. They have had enough of the nonsense. That is fine. They can do that.
I am not quitting – at least not yet.
My purpose remains the same.
I will encourage.
I will love.
I will support.
I strive to be a person of love in action – like Jesus asks me to:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
New International Version, Romans 12: 9 – 10
What would happen if my friends and I engaged on our social media platforms – whether it’s facebook, Twitter, or whatever — with the intent to bless? What if we set our hearts and minds on loving people as we spoke, as we shared, as we lived, and as we posted and tweeted?
Instead of getting all riled up about this thing or that thing, what would happen if we listened more, learned more, and loved more, and even, prayed more? I am not promoting an unrealistic, rainbows -and-unicorns-and-puppy-dogs-and-kittens’ discourse. I am talking about real listening, real understanding, and real love – reaching the heart-to-heart place of care, respect, and honor. One cannot honor another person above oneself without understanding where they are coming from – listening to their worries, concerns, sorrows, need, joys, gladness, and blessings.
Is this possible on a social media platform?
How do we start?
For me, I will share the good stuff. The joyous stuff. The comforting and encouraging stuff. The honoring stuff. And the real stuff. The where-I’m-at-stuff. But I won’t do it in anger, with annoyance or impatience, or with malevolence. I follow Christ. He asks that I honor others – my friends – even if I don’t always agree with them. He commands us to do that:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
New Interntional Version, John 15:12
But…what about a word of conviction? What if we feel strongly about something and we feel led to share it?
Well, I am doing this very thing right now. I feel compelled to share this word of conviction among my friends. My exhortation is for us to be better friends.
This is my encouragement. Without criticism and without blame, I am asking us to care more, love more, and bless more – especially if we follow Jesus Christ. The unfortunate truth is that followers of Christ have not showed His love very well in recent days and, alas, we’ve failed to love like Christ many times throughout history as well. The name of Jesus has been used for misguided, self-serving ambition rather than for sharing the real message of Jesus Christ – to reveal the transformational, life-giving love of God.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
New International Version, John 3:16
Are you my friend?
If yes, will you join me in posting and tweeting with a greater degree of kindness and respect this day, this week, and maybe even for the next 21 days? We know that habits form and stick with practice and with time.
Don’t we need 2021 to be a better, friendlier year?
Because if we do not start being better friends, who will?
What do you think?