In such a polarising world, is it even possible to be a Light for Christ online?
For many of us, the technological advancements of the past decade have engendered a seismic shift in the way we live our daily lives.
We are inhabitants of a digital world; technology is now so seamlessly woven into our everyday experience that we could say that we live ‘hybrid’ lives – switching effortlessly between online and offline realities. This kind of hybrid living calls for consistency in the way we follow Jesus – our online and offline lives must match up. As disciples, we are called to reflect the light of Christ in the whole of our lives – this is what we mean when we talk about being Lights for Christ.
This blog series is for all who are living hybrid lives.
An implication of living hybrid lives is that our ongoing relationships and social interactions are often mediated by touchscreens, keyboards and social media platforms. Lights for Christ are to receive, walk in and reflect Christ’s light. That seems a calling at odds with an undisciplined use of social media (and an undisciplined life, for that matter). Although intended to facilitate connection, social media can often drag us down and away from the lives of light that Christ would have us live.
So, should Christians be weary of social media? Perhaps. Should Christians pull back from social media from time to time? Probably. Blanket rules on these kinds of things are normally pretty useless. Yet, one thing that we must grapple with is a recognition that receiving and walking in Christ’s peace-bringing light doesn’t happen at the cost of reflecting that light *in* God’s world (which includes online spaces).
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
And continues (don’t skip the “so that”):
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
One of the many reasons God shines the light of Christ into our lives is so that as we receive it by faith, we can begin to reflect it in our daily run-of-the-mill hybrid lives. God is fulfilling his ambition to fill the entire earth with peace-bringing, darkness-defeating light through our Christ-like interactions (including our online interactions).
Here are three habits of light for online interactions:
View every online troll through heaven’s eyes
”So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” 2 Corinthians 5:16a.
The Apostle Paul knew that receiving the light of Christ was a life-transforming event. Paul’s entire view of the life had been renewed, including the way he viewed others. And so it is for us who have received the light of Christ. Our old ways of seeing our family, friends, co-workers and associates have undergone a critical update. That new view of others can be walked in and reflected brightly in online interactions. Consider the fact that behind every unnecessarily negative and even hurtful comment, there is a human being that God is deeply concerned about. When interacting via social media, every touchscreen tap and keyboard bash, has a potential impact on countless human beings – many of whom haven’t yet received the light of Christ for themselves.
Before hitting ‘Post’ ask one question: Have I recognised the dignity, worth and ‘God’s reconciliatory desire’ for the person this comment is intended for? Why not commit to making it a habit of light?
Brand ambassadors reflect their brand
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.” 2 Corinthians 5:20a. There is no way around the fact that as Lights for Christ we have the incredible privilege of representing Jesus Christ in the world. An ambassador’s entire life is a representation of her sending state. An ambassador ought not speak of peace and reconciliation, if their sending state is seeking war and destruction. Likewise, if God speaks peace and reconciliation in a divided and broken world, his ambassadors ought not to be heard threatening, bashing and trashing others. An ambassador’s words are tethered to the one they represent. So it is with Lights for Christ online. Our words cannot be untethered from the concrete reality of the peace-bringing light of Christ.
Make it a habit to follow/befriend people you disagree with, being willing to listen and understand them better, seeking their peace and regularly praying for their reconciliation to God.
Appeals have intended audiences
‘‘God making his appeal through us’’ 2 Corinthians 5:20b.
God’s appeal to the entirety of the created order to be reconciled to him through Jesus Christ is made through the church, says Paul. The church in our Digital Age, is still God’s primary vehicle for the delivery and demonstration of his good news message. Each one of us has a calling with public implications. Public messages ought not be communicated in ways that limit access. And so it is with Lights for Christ Online. The message of reconciliation that is embodied in the life and speech of every Christian ought not be hidden or anonymised. ‘’…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’’ Matthew 5:16.
Why not make it a habit to, where possible and appropriate, avoid online anonymity (especially when gaming), so that the public can see your (online) good works and glorify God. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for onlookers to see our online life and interactions, and come to the conclusion that God is deeply concerned about their flourishing?
There is much more to be said of course. What online habits of light have you developed?
This Lights for Christ Online blog series has been co-produced by Hannah Sandoval, the Diocese of Sheffield Lights for Christ Enabler, and Elliot Hyliger, the Diocese of Sheffield Digital Mission Development Advisor. We’d love to hear from you so do share your thoughts in the comments below or get in touch directly.