18th Century Wisdom for the Digital Age: Christians and Social Media by Mark McClean

As a young Christian teenager in the mid 1990s I set a personal goal to read through the unabridged version of Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible– all 2500 pages of it! A formidable endeavour for anyone. Needless to say, it was a spectacular failure. laptop-computers-1446068-m I don’t recall exactly how far I got before I stopped but something I read early on really stuck with me and is helpful for us as we consider how Christians should make use of social media.

In the opening paragraph of the Preface to the first volume of his commentary Henry shares a great piece of wisdom which I believe will serve  Christians well today whenever it comes to using social media.  His approach is one that I try to follow as a way of doing things when it comes to posting on Facebook, tweeting, or writing a blog post. Henry writes,

Though it is most my concern, that I be able to give a good account to God and my own conscience, yet perhaps, it will be expected that I give the world also some account of this bold undertaking; which I shall endeavour to do with all plainness, and as one who believes that if men must be reckoned with in the great day, for every vain and idle word they speak, much more for every vain and idle line they write.

Taking to social platforms on the internet is certainly no “bold undertaking” equal to Henry’s prestigious and illuminating piece of 18th Century literature, however, it still is an influential social sphere where millions, if not, billions of people like to “congregate”  and exchange words,  thoughts, ideas, photos, videos or find expression for their gripes, criticisms, fears, hopes etc.  In the mix of this cyber milieu there are a lot of “vain and idle lines” written by Christians, young and old. I’ve contributed my fair share of “idle writ” to this vain cause. Nevertheless, I try to uphold a Christ-honouring trend of commenting, tweeting or blogging “as one who believes that if men must be reckoned with in the great day, for every vain and idle word they speak, much more for every vain and idle line they write.

Knowing very well that one day I will have to give an account to the Righteous Judge of all, for not only the good and bad things I speak but also the good and bad things I write, keeps me grounded, sober minded and focussed on things of eternal significance as I seek to redeem my time for Christ on social platforms. I find interacting with others on the internet in view of being accountable to God serves both as a great encouragement and a cautious warning to be a responsible, God-fearing, social media user. And for those moments, which inevitably come, where I haven’t particularly honoured the Lord by what I have written or how I have interacted with others online, I remember the psalmist’s comforting words of truth:

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:4 ESV)

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