Love Your Digital Neighbor as Yourself

Do you find yourself tired of negative comments on social media? Maybe you’ve made a few yourself. How would God have us use social media? What guidelines does the Bible provide?

While today’s social media did not exist in the first century, Jesus communicated an important story that holds powerful lessons regarding what we post, tweet, or share. In Luke 10:25-37, the account of the Good Samaritan shows we are to treat our neighbor as ourselves. His definition of a neighbor offers insight into today’s hyper-connected culture. Verses 36-37 record Jesus asking:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Simply stated: We are to treat every person we meet with the same love we would like in return.

If we consider this concept concerning our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and comments on blogs or other online forums, we can find ourselves veering from this ideal very quickly. When the person is not in front of us, it is much easier to say an unkind word or comment that can have highly negative consequences on others.

Instead, let’s consider four biblically-based ideas for loving your digital neighbor as yourself.

First, build up instead of tear down.

The New Testament is filled with teaching to encourage one another. Christians are to be known for how they express love and kindness to each other as well as to unbelievers.

Unfortunately, negative Christian responses have resulted in our faith often being known for what we are against rather than what we are for. Jesus taught that others would know we are His followers by the love we have for one another (John 13:35).

When you are on social media, share an encouraging word (or even an emoji!) with someone who needs it. Sarcasm may get a laugh, but it will not build up your friend who may be struggling.

Second, stand for what is right.

With all the causes promoted in our culture through social media, it’s sometimes easier to support something or someone who opposes our convictions rather than stand for what is right. For example, we often find people who call themselves Christians yet justify the behaviors of certain celebrities that are against biblical teachings. Again, this is not what God’s people are to be known for.

Further, supporting unbiblical attitudes regarding disrespect toward authorities, whether parents, employers, governing leaders, teachers, law enforcement, military personnel, or others contradicts God’s call for us to show respect to all. We may not like a certain person or situation, but it doesn’t always mean we must comment on it.

Third, stand against what is wrong.

Some matters necessitate a response. When a person is bullied online, we are called to stand up and do something. Proverbs 31:8 teaches, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

We can help someone in need through kind comments, but we can also help through standing up to those who abuse others. When you see a problem, do something. Don’t simply pass by. If a situation seems more serious, such as abuse or talk of suicide or violence, let someone know. Your involvement may make a bigger impact than you think.

Fourth, remember that love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8 teaches, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” When it comes to our social media comments, it’s easy to be offended. It’s much more difficult to let go and forgive someone who leaves a hurtful comment.

Yet just as we have been forgiven, we are to forgive others. This does not mean we forget or continue to allow someone to hurt us, but it does mean we are willing to move on and not hold a grudge against the other person. We also do not seek revenge, but leave the consequences to God (Romans 12:19).

Social media can easily lead to saying (or typing) something we regret. In some cases, we can go back and delete hurtful words or contact someone privately to apologize. At other times, all we can do it move forward, seeking to improve in each interaction each day.

When people see the change in us, we can discover opportunities to share God’s love and His hope with those both on and off social media. Let’s seek to love our neighbor, including our digital neighbor, as ourselves.

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