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Avoiding the Unfruitful Mix of Social Media and Politics

Our study in Acts has highlighted a principle for missional churches--“We should not make it difficult for” people who are coming to God (Acts 15:19). I highlighted how the mix of politics and social media can build barriers.

At Covenant Church, we never want to make it hard for people from any political spectrum to come to God.   Politics draws lines between people; in contrast, Jesus’ love cuts across those lines. Jesus is too radical to be a moderate, too conservative to be a liberal, and too liberal to be conservative.  He doesn’t fit into any box or category.  He relativizes everyone’s politics. 

Christ’s Church doesn’t exist to either elect or defeat politicians. It exists to glorify Christ and grow his Kingdom.  Christ’s kingdom is the alternative Kingdom to every kingdom on the planet.

Social media presents all kinds of room for misunderstandings, however well-intentioned.  On social media conversations lose their larger human context. I discovered that bookmarks, “likes”,  or snippets of conversations were read by people outside of those conversations and contexts and interpreted in ways that I never imagined.  If someone saw me bookmark an article about a Mets player who happened to love Jesus, they might conclude that I liked the Mets, when that would be a completely unfounded conclusion.  I was just doing opposition research!  Or I might be bookmarking a site to follow up on a friend who follows the author.  Or I praised President Obama’s tribute to his wife and daughters in his farewell speech.  But I discovered that what I intended lacked the context to ensure accurate communication.

In the current climate, my conviction is that the mix of politics and social media is so toxic that I must abstain from posting  anything on social media that can even  be construed as taking a political side.  I should view the mix of politics on social media like the recovering alcoholic views the bar that serves up alcohol.
Now, this does not mean that the church should not preach and teach on every moral issue that is in the scriptures.  I believe you’ll find pro-life teaching in the Bible, and you’ll find teaching on racial reconciliation, helping the poor, and showing hospitality to the most vulnerable.  Sadly, each issue is often perceived as “political”.   That perception cannot preclude preaching on them.  However, the scriptures put all of these in a Christ-centered, gospel-context.    At Covenant, we are committed to teaching the whole counsel of God.   We do so in a redemptive context of seeking to bring everyone into a reconciled relationship with God, and seeking to call the reconciled to righteous actions.  Social media mixed with politics cannot accomplish this goal.
Why? Social Media mixed with politics becomes only about conclusions and not conversations. 

Jesus asks a lot of  questions in the Gospels. One scholar noted that Jesus asks over three hundred questions!   And He already knew all the answers. So, what  would Jesus post?  I think it is clear that Jesus would post things that got people into conversation about Him and with Him.  At Covenant, we have lots of Biblical convictions and conclusions, but we’re eager to have actual conversations.
A lot of good things happens on social media.  But at its worst, social media is  mix of voyeurism, narcissism, and exhibitionism. When social media co-mixes with politics it becomes mostly about self-expression and not about mutual enlightenment or effective persuasion.  Self-expression is highly valued in our culture, but the Bible constrains us to place self-expression underneath what serves the value of love. “ All things are lawful, not all things are profitable (1 Corinthians 6).”

Finally, posting positions on social media may also be deceiving us into to thinking we’ve done something important when we have not left our spectator’s seat. There are many activities that can unite everyone in productive and God-pleasing actions. There are great organizations that serve women in crisis pregnancies, refugees, or people who lack resources of various kinds.   Small groups at Covenant often combine social time together with actively serving together to meet the needs of others. 

Here’s a few ideas, many of which small groups at Covenant are already participating in:
  • mobilizing a group of friends to volunteer at a soup kitchen,
  • volunteering to assist Code Blue for homeless people,
  • throwing a baby shower for a single mom,
  • creating helpful Easter baskets for a bunch of newly arrived refugees,
  • attending a church of a different race/ethnicity to build relationships,
  • working on a community garden project that provides plot of ground for people who aren’t home-owners. (Our facilities manager, Joe Lanzetta confirmed that we  have some great possible potential land for this on our property, it simply needs a leadership team and a plan.)
    Those activities are not political.  Such activities are not even controversial or at least they should never be.   They are expressions of  Christ-like love, and they accomplish immediate good, and promote unity and service.
I’ve heard a lot of people regret the time they spend online, but I’ve never regretted participating in acts of mercy, compassion, and doing justice.

Finally, if someone’s post on social media about politics has created the slightest disaffection in your heart towards them, please take redemptive action necessary  to bring about full restoration.  Face to face conversations are the necessary remedy in almost every case.  Many times, conversations correct false assumptions, or at least provide a context.

There’s one life and death message that demands our passionate heart investment, and that is the gospel.  We should not make it hard for anyone who is on the way to a relationship with Christ. 

Micah 6:8 “He has shown you what is good…. To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Fodder to Feed Missional Conversation

Last week’s sermon from Acts 14:15-17 zeroed in on speaking relevant to culture.  Some of you have mentioned wanting to read more about Don Richardson.   You can find his books, “Peace Child”, Lords of the Earth, and Eternity in their Hearts quite readily.  He also tells the story himself on several youtube links.  My favorite is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6pzUwBaGvw&t=3s

Speaking of broad connections to the gospel, the incredible, late, writer David Foster Wallace summarized the human default setting this way: "The constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing."  That’s true to my experience personally, and I believe it is key to understanding the human journey. 

An informed student of  C.S. Lewis graciously corrected one detail in my  description of C.S. Lewis’ atheism from this past week’s sermon.   The person most responsible for C.S. Lewis’ dreary childhood devoid of any supernatural elements was not his parents, but a professor at the school he attended. Lewis adopted atheism when he lost his mother when he was only nine years old.  His parents were likely “cultural Christians”.  The person most responsible for his atheistic presuppositions was  William Thompson Kirkpatrick (whom Lewis called, “The Great Knock”). Lewis was sent to Kirkpatrick to be tutored in preparation for applying to Oxford. If you’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia, you can get some sense of what Kirkpatrick was like because Lewis modeled the Professor (Digory Kirke)from his memories of him.   However, even this rigorous intellectual rooting in atheism could not suppress fact that God was speaking and witnessing powerfully to Lewis, even through fictional fairy tales.  Lewis could not suppress the witness of God  that there was so much more to reality than Lewis was experiencing. 

I’m increasingly convinced the most relevant connection we can have to show off the gospel comes by doing.  We’re living in times of fractured debate on so many issues, policies, and positions.  Much talk on all sides has awakened a hunger to do something radical with our lives.  Psalm 111:10 tells us that “a good understanding have those who DO His commands”. 

Brandon Clements, a pastor in South Carolina regards books like David Platt’s “Radical”  as “very needed corrections for a sleepy church.” 

He goes on to say, “But not everyone will end up  doing something drastic. Not everyone will be called to go overseas, start a non-profit, or move to a crime-ridden inner-city neighborhood.  A lot of ‘ordinary’ Christians end up thinking that the mission of God (or at least the really important parts of it) must not be for them.

Thus he wrote a book about simple hospitality titled, “The Simplest Way to Change the World”.  He summarizes the book this way:   “It’s for this vast swath of Christians that we wanted to show the truth that opening your home and life with gospel intentionality is quite literally a way to join God in His mission to save the world. And it’s something that every single one of us can do, easily.”

This week’s sermon will be from Acts 15 and the removal of barriers to the gospel. Without this bold action, none of us would have likely heard the gospel ever.

Let’s keep trying to change the world in Jesus’ power!

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