I am not a trained cultural critic or a digital media analyst, but I posted my first tweet in 2009 and have since tweeted 15,000 more times. Back in its early days, I had been watching the rise of what we now call social media, and it became clear to me that the way the human community connected and communicated was about to go through a seismic period of change.
I believed that this new, internet-based media could be a powerful tool for the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, I determined that each morning, I would wake up, sit in the family room of our loft, and share three gospel thoughts. (On Sunday, I tweet once about the importance of corporate worship; on Facebook and Instagram, my team posts content daily, too.)
I will continue to tweet each morning as long as I am able because, without leaving my chair, I can connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. Literally, millions and millions of people from every corner of the world have been encouraged with the gorgeous truths of the person and work of Jesus Christ from my chair in that little room in Philadelphia. What stunningly powerful tools have been placed in our hands!
But there’s a problem with tools. The same hammer used to build a house can also smash a window in a robbery. The same screwdriver that assembles gorgeous furniture can stab someone in a fit of anger. Such is the case with social media.
I am again and again shocked at the darkness and abuse that now lives on social media. So much of that results from people emboldened by the protective cover of a remote screen and keyboard. The prevalence of this toxic digital culture should grieve and concern us.
It would be sad enough if only the unbelieving world was defined by this behavior, fueling our motivation for gospel evangelism. It should be expected, as followers of Christ, when the world hates us: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
But what should make us grieve the most is that these nasty interactions have infected and stained the church. When Jesus was in his final moment of tender instruction of his disciples, words meant to prepare them for a life of faith after his ascension, he said this: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Let these words sink in. Jesus is saying that the mark of a disciple, the core indication that you have been visited, rescued, and transformed by grace, is love. In today’s world of digital communication and social media, many of us are reacting in a way that falls way below this standard.
By the power of God’s amazing grace, we can do better. That’s why I wrote my newest book on this timely subject. Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms Our Actions and Reactions instructs Christians to view social media and digital technology through the lens of the gospel and points readers toward a biblical framework for communication. I pray that Reactivity helps the church engage with culture and each other, encouraging us to think wisely about our interactions online and how we can be beacons of light in an age of digital and social toxicity.
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We must grieve, we must repent, and we must do better. Our current, unloving responses to one another cannot be normalized or justified. Reactivity proposes a better way, rooted in the ancient wisdom of the word of God and its central theme—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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Paul David Tripp
1. In what ways have you failed to love your fellow believers in your digital communication?
2. What can you do to cultivate a more biblical view of your online interactions? Be specific.
3. Think of one person to encourage this week online. Send them a message and bring the light of the gospel to their inbox.
4. Are there particular topics that come up online that prompt you to be less than loving in your response?
5. Is there anyone you need to reach out to and ask forgiveness for a previous unloving interaction?
6. As followers of Christ, we aren’t called to love at the expense of truth. We’re called to speak the truth in love. How can you hold onto your theological convictions while maintaining communication that is saturated with love?