The title of this article is a quote by Benjamin Franklin, and it happens to be one of my all-time favorites. As the oldest child in an unusually large family (more to come on family later!) I have been told my entire life to be a good example. Before I gave my life over to Christ this was a daunting task. I used to feel such pressure to be perfect and to make certain that no one could see me stumble. This was back when if you faltered it was only seen by those who were with you or if you chose to tell them. Today that is not the case anymore. Most of us live our lives in an extremely public sphere without ever leaving our homes.
The internet has brought a gigantic world to our fingertips. In many ways this is a good thing: online schools, quick communication with friends and family, and an abundance of information available at a moment’s notice. It has also encouraged us to unknowingly invite some very dangerous things into our home. There are the obvious dangers such as readily available “adult” (why can’t they just call it what it is… pornography?) anti-Christianity, anti-family websites. These are the things that we are warned about in church and in Christian literature. But what about the more subversive dangers? These dangers lie in wait under the guise of convenience.
There was a time when if you wanted to talk to someone you had to call them and hope they were at home. Prior to that you wrote letters and hoped the mail arrived. If you couldn’t read or write then you had to hope that you would see the other person soon. Now, we can hop on facebook and find out as much as we would like about a mere acquaintance without ever having to actually speak to them. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow for people to re-connect with classmates from high school and college, which can be fantastic. But it has also become the place to go and vent all of your feelings no matter how personal. It has also grown to be a breeding ground for hateful words and bullying. This behavior is not limited to teenagers or non-Christians!
- This last week when the Chick-fil-a day happened I witnessed people saying horrific things to one another on facebook. Would it surprise you to learn it was a 58 year old former Sunday school teacher whose posts made me log off facebook for the next 24 hours? Some people will say that this is an isolated case, that everyone was upset over the Chick-fil-a controversy.
- A girl I went to college with posted pictures of her vacation to Spain including several very suggestive pictures of her and the men she met along the way. The captions of the photos read, “I’m on vacation it doesn’t count!” This young woman is getting married in eight weeks to a young man who just secured his first job as a youth minister.
- A high school friend (and current small group leader for a local church) posted last month that he and his wife are getting a divorce after he discovered her infidelity. He proceeded to call the mother of his children several terrible names in his status update…. Where all of his “friends” could see it.
Let me end this article by saying that I am NOT anti-internet or social media! I have a personal facebook, I have a twitter account for this blog and I (obviously!) write a blog. I think the internet is fantastic when used correctly. I am also guilty of updating my status to things I probably shouldn't have in the past.The most important thing I am saying is that our chance to be a good example has widened significantly. We have a chance to shine for Christ to people that we don’t see every day. We can get books and supplies from places like Amazon and Ebay. We can use Netflix to show videos that educate and uplift. We can use these tools to help build up and educate the body of Christ. But it takes a decisive hand in order to ensure that these conveniences do not become distractions and stumbling blocks. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deed and praise your father in heaven.” We need to be a shining example for Christ in everything we do, we never know who might be watching and what impact we may have on their lives.