Study Guide: Peacemakers Behind the Pixels
Sunday October 6, 2019 | Osheta Moore
- James 3:13-18
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
As we continue our Interface series, this week Osheta explores how a Kingdom minded person can engage with social media as a peacemaker and avoid the pits of binary either-or thinking. The medium and anonymity of online life creates a temptation to leave behind self-control and humility in exchange for judgment and unsolicited advice. In this message, we look at 5 principles that can help keep us grounded in love as we engage in social media.
What is unfortunate about our online lives is not that we have disagreements, but that we have disagreements without kindness and empathy. There is a pull in online life toward binary thinking where we feel like we always have to pick a side. To show up with a nuanced perspective that rejects the “either-or” paradigm for a “both-and” view is not usually welcome. Systems seem to have a mind of their own that keep the functional pieces in their place, so stepping out of line and swimming in a counter cultural direction can be challenging.
The level of online curation that takes place before the pictures or words ever reach our eyes adds an additional layer of complexity to the puzzle. News stories and articles are often arranged, titled, and have images that push our buttons and trigger maximal emotional reactions. One reason there is so much conflict online is because we often feel compelled to let people know when we think they are wrong. Jesus modeled a way of engaging with people, even those he adamantly disagreed with, that maintained both parties’ humanity and dignity. Ambition, self-promotion, and a need for approval create desires in us that go against the wisdom in James 3 to be peacemakers full of mercy during our interactions with others.
Here are 5 principles that can help govern our social media interactions:
- Your worth is not defined by your social media likes, retweets, shares, follows, or any other artificial online indicator of success. We need to check our hearts to see where we’re getting unhealthy acceptance from online forums. We are not defined by our comments or likes or preferences. We are beloved children of God and we should be seeing ourselves fully defined by what God has spoken over us.
- Remember there is a person behind the post. Although it’s not a popular practice, giving someone the benefit of the doubt when we disagree can be a powerful tool in breaking down barriers and systems that often thrive off our division online. No matter what action a person was engaged in, Jesus always saw the person first. We can do that same thing and look to someone’s humanity before we put them in a box.
- Connect before you correct. A correction desperately needs a conversation in person. To be effective and meaningful, it must be preceded by connection. Not often can this be done through the medium in which the disagreement originated. A phone call where you can hear someone’s voice or cup of coffee can go a long way in breaking down the barriers of communication and temptation toward anonymity that the online world provides.
- Unfollow, unfriend, and block as peace-building tools, not as punishments. Just as Romans 12:17 says, we should “not repay evil with evil,” but rather see the tools social media gives us as healthy ways to set boundaries, not as ways to punish our perceived online enemies.
- Regular breaks from social media are healthy, and we don’t need to announce these decisions to others online. Better health, less stress, and better sleep are all associated with taking regular breaks for relaxation and de-stressing. Taking a regular sabbath from social media can provide this same type of benefit if it is an area the causes anxiety and unhealthy conflict.
As we think about these principles and create space to take regular breaks from social media, we can reflect on what it would mean to be a peacemaker in each of our particular corners of the internet. How does my digital footprint reflect my submission to Christ as my Lord and King?
- Were there any areas of scripture you didn’t understand or need more clarification?
- What area, maybe even in good areas, are you not counting the cost of your current level of use of social media? What about the unhealthy areas, what are the costs?
- What do you think is a healthy posture and attitude toward social media? Do you have people in your life that feel the same way? How can you encourage one another in wisdom in this space?
- What are the temptations specific to your level and type of engagement with social media in your life that get in the way of being an online peacemaker?
- What discipline might be helpful to start practicing in your life as it relates to social media to help bring freedom to an area you’re currently in bondage? Share your thoughts with at least one other person you trust that could check in with you in a few weeks to see how that discipline is going.