If our kids could see everything we have written online, what would they think of us? Would they see a model of virtue to imitate? Or would they feel shame or disappointment?
As someone said recently online, “If you are unkind for a righteous cause, you are still unkind.” That is true. We should strive to be kind because God is (Rom 2:4). And that means we should strive to use social media virtuously to honour God and to do what is right.
Theology unites what we believe and how we live
We often give into the temptation to divide what we teach from how we live. But they are the same. Scriptural theology teaches a way of life. Hence, Jesus called himself the Way (John 14:6) and early Christians took on the moniker of followers of the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). By way of a negative example, the New Testament overwhelmingly (and almost solely) pinpoints false teachers by their way of life.
In short, doctrine works. Scripture first tells us the doctrine, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). Then that doctrine inseparably requires a way of life: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Scripture never separates “abstract” theology from “practical” theology. They hold together, just like a married couple.
Now, it may be obvious why our behaviour on social media (or anywhere) matters so much. What we do signifies what we confess. James asks, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). As James will show, it does not save.
Salvation by faith inseparable leads to good works since justification leads inseperababy to good works: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).
And so Paul can say, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16).
What we tweet or share reveals our hearts—whether our doctrine is true or false. As all doctors and divines across church history have known, true doctrine requires genuine piety.
Christians should live wisely and teach their wisdom to others
Having cleared away the thorns, now let me hit on the main point. Everything we do is worship and formation. Our thoughts and acts in this life ought to be thoughts and acts of worship. And everything we say, believe, and do forms our own hearts and those whom we influence.
And I think fathers and mothers know exactly what I mean. Our children follow everything we do. All that we do forms them in some way. The same holds true for anyone else we influence. In this regard, I find the wisdom of Solomon as found in the Book of Proverbs compelling.
In the very first chapter of Proverbs, we gain keen insight into the book’s purpose: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction” (Prov 1:8). Solomon here has collected these proverbs to teach his son. It is a book of fatherly wisdom, from father to son.
Here, we find a deeply important pattern that corresponds to our natural purpose. Fathers ought to instruct sons. And such instruction for sons not only should apply to them in particular but all people as such since wisdom is one.
In short, Solomon collected proverbs for his son, even though they can apply to anyone’s life because wisdom remains stable. The evidence of this is simply Proverbs’ inclusion in Scripture. It is for us.
Now, what sort of teaching appears throughout Proverbs? Is it doctrine? Is it ethics? It is both. Solomon lays out a way of life that begins with the fear of the LORD (doctrine) and works towards the ends of virtue.
Solomon tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1:7). Here the pattern of the inseparability of doctrine and practice again appears.
One cannot fear the LORD and be a fool. And one cannot love wisdom and instruction while tweet-dunking ideological, faceless enemies online. That’s a fool.
The wise person knows: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov 16:24).
The wise person learns “to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1–2). And until one acts in such a way, they are, to use Paul’s own words, “foolish” (Titus 3:3).
Write online as if your son or daughter is watching. Make sure that everything you say aims to form some virtue in them and lead to some good thing. Now, realize that this should be one important goal for everything that you say and do online. Remember: we will give an account to the righteous Judge for all that we’ve done and spoken.