What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by what is happening in our culture? This is happening to me with greater frequency, especially when I look at my feed on social media. At the moment, I am struck by how urgently and passionately different groups in our society speak about and defend various issues. How far apart one group’s strongly-held position is compared to what the opposing group believes. AND how angrily and hatefully people speak to one another when given the buffer of online anonymity.
How can we be so far apart? And what is my role in the dialogue happening on social media? Do I engage, find something more benign and appetizing to share, or share/say nothing at all? I found myself realizing that I need a criteria for the types of articles that I choose for sharing.
Worrying and feeling unsettled, I opened my Bible. I’ve been poking around in the Psalms and so I read the next-up: Psalm 15. It starts with a question: “Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?”
I had asked God to speak to me on social issues so it didn’t seem from this lead-up that my answer would be in this Psalm. However, I read on. The Psalm gives a bit of a checklist to answer the question the writer poses.
“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?”
- lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts;
- refuse to gossip or harm their neighbours, or speak evil of their friends;
- despise flagrant sinners;
- honour the faithful followers of the Lord;
- keep their promises even when it hurts;
- lend money without charging interest;
- cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent;
“Such people will stand firm forever.“
Whaddya know? There is something here for me that applies to current culture and what I share on social media.
- Don’t be a hypocrite! As in every circumstance, before I declare that someone else is wrong, I need to make sure that I “lead a blameless life and do what is right.” My criteria for this is God’s Word, so I need to be in the Word more than I am on social media [Who has two thumbs that this applies to? This gal.]
- Check my facts. Don’t just repeat what others are saying, even if what they are saying sounds good. Is what I am saying contributing to the dialogue and providing something new based on what is true on the topic? Also, what is on my heart? Am I sincerely desiring to lead someone to the truth or just to back them into a corner? Before I speak, I need to be sure that I am able to “speak the truth from a sincere heart.”
- Check my motive. Why am I sharing this? Is it because I want to put myself or “my group” up at someone else’s expense? Is my motivation to love and draw others to Christ or is it to make others look bad? Am I pointing out someone’s sin without also providing the solution for sin? Is my heart breaking over what is happening or am I just angry? I cannot be guilty of harming others through gossip. On the contrary, I must refuse to gossip or say things that will hurt others (“refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors, or speak evil of their friends”).
- I cannot choose to tolerate sin. This is such a hard one. When reading the Psalms, I struggle with the words that David* uses to describe how he feels about sin or God’s enemies. When he says “I hate those who hate you” (Psalm 139:21) or that he “despises” sinners, I cringe. What he is saying feels very anti-Christian, but I need to get to the bottom of it. What does God mean when he inspires David to say that he “despises flagrant sin.” To speak in general terms, in the days of David, enemies and sinners were mainly from the enemy/pagan nations or those who had chosen to worship idols. Applied to our age, I believe “flagrant sin” could refer to those who intentionally shake their fist at God and choose to live a life that identifies with sin. Those who actively believe that how they live will have no eternal consequence. That God didn’t mean it when he said that a certain act is sinful or that he didn’t mean it the way we think he meant it. My attitude toward sin needs to be such that I take sin very, very seriously. After all, it is what drove Jesus to the cross and I cannot take that lightly (“despise flagrant sinners”).
- I need to support people who are honoring God’s Word and following him faithfully. If someone is speaking the truth on a subject in a way that honours God, share it. It could be helpful to someone who is struggling (“honour the faithful followers of the Lord”).
The bottom line appears to be linked to eternity: “Such people will stand firm forever.” God’s Word, God’s Truth, never changes. Cultural winds may blow around us but if we anchor our lives to the truth in God’s Word, we cannot, we will not be led astray.
Current day ideology is making my head spin. The headlines and the blog posts in my social media are astonishing, and not in a refreshing way. Although it might feel new and unprecedented, we are reminded in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” In contrast, God’s Word and his faithfulness are beyond the limits of what is under the sun. “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).
When you, like me, sometimes get overwhelmed by the news or social media, remember this: “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). It is very likely that some time spent in God’s Word will bring you the perspective (and the response) you need to carry on… and even to make a difference.
*or the other Psalmists… but Psalm 15 is written by David