1 Thessalonians 5:11, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Peter 3:15
James Gandon on how we represent Christ in our modern world
Life as a Christian impacts every decision we make, we can be drawn in so many different directions and our loyalty challenged time and time again. I am a Facebook user and see it as a great platform to share my faith, discuss important issues and invite people to events we're holding at our Church. However I also see another side to Facebook, where there is a temptation to post with our guards down, to say what we really think or get into sometimes heated and often not very edifying discussions.
In our current climate of raised political awareness and tension, it can be all too easy to take a 'cheap shot' at somebody who has a view different to our own - and this isn't limited to what's going on in parliament or our local council. Christians can all too easily fall into the same trap of writing something on Facebook which they would never imagine speaking out loud to somebody - on all kinds of subjects, how we should do things in Church or what the Bible says about sexuality or abortion.
I struggle with the antagonisation of our relationships on Facebook, the way our discussions can feel anonymised, and just sent off into the internet ether. We are called in scripture to encourage and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11) not to tear other people down and drag their name through the mud. And I wonder in the society we find ourselves in, how we might do that.
Paul writes to the Christians in Rome that encouragement is a gift of the Holy Spirit - given specifically to certain people (Romans 12:6-8). I can see this so clearly in certain people who are so good at naturally encouraging me and others - for which I'm really grateful. But I want to urge you, even if it's not your gift, to try and grow in the ministry of encouragement.
Take a moment to reflect on somebody who you really appreciate and make a point of letting them know - a quick text message or a card in the post might just make their day. We can all grow in the gifts of the Spirit and practice them. They are like a muscle that gets stronger as we use it. Get into the habit of practising thankfulness and encouragement.
As Christians, we are not called to be separate from the world around us but to engage with it, hang out with those who we don't agree with and try to be a positive influence in the conversations we find ourselves in (whether in real life or on Facebook!).
Jesus says that we are set apart and have a message to tell - and this is shown in how we live our lives, what people see in our integrity and how we talk about others. There are plenty of big issues around which the Gospel has an important angle on and the world needs to hear that angle, but it must be brought with grace, care and gentleness.
1 Peter 3:15 says we should always be ready to tell the story of Jesus and the reason for hope - perhaps especially in our hopeless world but do so with gentleness and respect. So let's be a people who represent Christ well, who bring his perspective to the communities we find ourselves in and the issues we face but remembering that his is a message of hope, joy and truth.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
St Andrew's Church
View all Life Files by James Gandon