“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” Paul tells the Colossians (3:17). For me, “whatever you do” calls to mind the big-picture roles I play on a daily basis: student, employee, daughter, and friend. Your big-picture hats might look different—parent, spouse, child, employer, teacher—but in all of them, both you and I are called to do everything, from homework assignments to meetings to hugs, for the glory of God.
That’s easy enough to wrap our minds around, but what about the in-between moments? What about when I’m not a student or a friend or an employee, but a driver or a cook or a runner? “Whatever you do” encompasses those things, too—the little hats, so to speak. And one of those “little hats,” the ones we wear but often forget that we’re wearing, is this: social media user.
When we reach for our phones and scroll through Instagram, we bear the name of Christ just as much as we do when we talk to our family members, finish a presentation at work, or counsel a friend through a crisis. “Whatever you do,” Paul tells the Colossians, “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Paul doesn’t say “whatever you do in your career,” or “whatever you do at school,” but “whatever you do,” period—including posting on your Instagram story.
What does it mean to include social media use in “whatever you do”? It’s not an easy question to answer. Last week, I listened to this excellent episode of the Good Enough podcast about social media use. On the heels of that podcast, I sat down with a friend on the curb outside her apartment on a sunny Saturday morning and talked about the temptation to post pictures of quiet time just to get affirmation from others. The question’s been on my mind for a while now, and for good reason. Like it or not, a good bit of our existence in a pandemic world has moved to social media. If we are to serve Christ in whatever we do, and if our online presence is part of what we do, then we need to be asking: How do we do that in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him?
This is not a polemic against social media. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m fairly active there (though, Boomer that I am at heart, Twitter is still outside my comfort zone). Social media can allow us to keep up with friends, share happy and honest moments, practice our writing, and appreciate others’ craftsmanship. But social media can also capture our minds in a way that only Christ should, paving the way for comparison and bombarding us with so much information that it leaves us meditating on whatever is ugly and corrupted instead of whatever is lovely and pure (Philippians 4:8-9).
It’s fair to say that walking that line is difficult, even burdensome. Figuring out how to exist in yet another space is exhausting. Christian employee, Christian student, Christian daughter: those roles are easier to understand, if not to fulfill. We can easily find verses that directly apply to each one of them. But what does it look like to be a Christian social media user?
Maybe being a Christian on social media isn’t so different from what it looks like to be a Christian in any other sphere. That is, we, as Christians on social media, are to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven and treat others as those made in the image of God.
In Colossians 3, as he’s building up to verse 17, Paul admonishes his readers,
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”Colossians 3:12-16 ESV
According to Paul, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, love, thankfulness, praise, and the peace of Christ characterize the children of God. These actions flow from knowledge, the imperative from the indicative. Since we are God’s chosen ones, we put on compassionate hearts. Since the Lord has forgiven us, we forgive. Since we were called in one body, the peace of Christ rules. These traits, born out of grace, should characterize us in the workplace, in church, and on Facebook.
The “born out of grace” part is key. This is not another impossible standard placed on us by an exacting God, but one of the many extensions of His easy yoke and light burden (Matthew 11:28-29). There is no corner of our lives that Christ cannot redeem, including our social media presence.
Like any part of the Christian life, it is not about the rules we follow, but about the God we serve. There is no one-size-fits-all manual of How to Be a Christian on Social Media. So, instead of asking: “Should I post photos of my quiet time? Should I share my political views? Should I delete my apps from my phone once a week?”, maybe the better questions are: “Does this put on love? Am I posting this out of humility? Am I doing this in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him?”
For some of us, this kind of honest look might lead us to delete our apps or accounts. For others, it may look like remaining on those platforms while stewarding our words or images with greater care. Regardless, our calling is to serve God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. “Christian” is not one of the many hats we wear, but the reason we wear all of them. It’s the thread woven throughout all of our lives, including our social media presence—the thread that characterizes whatever we do.