Certainly, there is one thing positive about social media: when Yeshua returns, all eyes will see him.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the people of the earth will mourn because of him.” Rev. 1:7
Have you ever wondered how every eye will see Yeshua when he returns? Now, with social media, those with smart phones will capture his return on video, immediately post it to YouTube, and bam, every eye will see him.
Did you ever wonder if Yeshua would have a Facebook page, and, if so, what photo he would use as his profile pic? How about him walking on the water or multiplying the loaves and fish or standing side by side with Lazarus, smiling, while Lazarus is still bound with grave clothes?
How about Yeshua tweeting? Here’s a few possibilities: “Ha, ha, got those Pharisees again.” “Just raised up the widow’s son.” “Storm approaching on the Galilee – watch this!”
What is social media? It’s a form of communication. Yeshua himself was a form of communication. John refers to him as the Word (Logos). He is God’s form of communication to man. What better way for man to know God than to see him in human form. It’s shocking to our Jewish brethren. But if God can communicate from a bush or a cloud, why not through a human?
A friend from South Africa explained that in various places in South Africa there are huge ant hills. One day he was walking by an ant hill that was crushed on one side. The ants were scurrying about, trying to figure out what to do. Because his vantage point was from above, it was clear to him how to repair the ant hill. He called out to the ants, but there was no response. He cried out louder, explaining he could help repair the hill, but again the ants ignored him. So, he thought, I just need to become an ant and explain how to repair their home. Similarly, Yeshua is God’s form of communication with us.
Yeshua also was a communicator. He used various communication methods to grab people’s attention. Did you ever wonder how thousands of people could hear Yeshua at one time without microphones or audio equipment? The first time I visited Israel I climbed the hill known as the Mount of Beatitudes, where Yeshua presumably preached the Sermon on the Mount. I stood on the top while a friend stood at the bottom. Apparently, because of the local acoustics, due to the rocks and the Sea of the Galilee in the background, my friend could hear every word as I read from the Sermon.
Yeshua utilized parables or stories to make his point. Today, most good speakers use stories to elaborate their message. America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, was a well-known story teller. In addition, Yeshua used popular methods of argumentation to attract support. For example, he proclaims, “It was written – you shall not murder, but I say unto you that he who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment.” This formula was known in its day as the lesser to the greater. In other words, one lays out a lesser standard of behavior and contrasts it with a greater or higher standard of behavior.
When Yeshua declares, “whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven,” he was utilizing a popular saying of the Pharisees that was used by them to claim authority to make decisions for the entire community. In this case, he is declaring his disciples now will have that authority. The point is that Yeshua used common forms of communication to illustrate and expand on his points.
The Apostle Paul did the same thing. The Book of Acts describes an encounter that Paul had with the Greeks in Athens. He was strolling among a group of Greek idols when he came upon an idol with an inscription to the unknown god. He used the inscription to describe the God of all creation. In the midst of his message he said, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” He was quoting from the Greek poet, Aratus, who wrote the same thing about the Greek god, Zeus. In other words, Paul used what was familiar to highlight his message.
Returning to the question of whether Yeshua would have used social media, I would say absolutely. He would use social media to communicate to as many people as possible. What would Yeshua’s message be? The kingdom of heaven (God) is at hand. God is breaking into the world in the most dramatic way possible. A human became an ant to repair the ant hill, and God became a human to lead to the repair of the human race.
The sick were healed. The bound set free. Even the dead were raised. Yeshua taught and taught and taught. He taught God’s ways that were higher than most people were accustomed to. The standards seemed almost unattainable, but something about Yeshua made them seem possible.
He was popular with the masses. He challenged authority, especially religious authority. He exposed hypocrisy. He gave hope to the hopeless. He modeled a life that others sought to emulate. Everything about Yeshua was a message: his existence, his lifestyle, his teaching, his confrontations with religious authorities. He showed a better way. He was truth, justice and the Israelite way.
How about this for a tweet? “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the father but through me.” How many would be intrigued by this? How many would follow his pithy remarks? Or, “you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
It’s interesting that so many of his remarks and so much of his life was dedicated to the truth. Did you know his phrase, “you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” is emblazoned on the walls of the CIA? There’s something so fundamental about the truth. Basic justice is premised upon the truth. Imagine a criminal case where someone is accused of a serious crime. What is the primary role of the fact finder (judge or jury)? It’s to determine the truth – what happened. If the fact finders come to conclusions based upon falsehoods, fraud or half truths, then whatever punishment is exacted is unjust.
There are two primary characteristics of God’s kingdom – love (mercy) and justice. But justice is impossible without the truth. One of the Messiah’s main missions is to enact justice throughout the earth:
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Isa. 2:4
Justice leads to peace. But justice is dependent upon the truth. As followers of Yeshua, we should be dedicated to the truth; finding the truth, hearing the truth and sharing the truth.
This is where we come to the problems of social media. Social media has enabled us to connect to the entire world. I remember when I first met my wife in the early 1970’s. Her father was an avid ham radio operator. Ham radios were able to bounce radio signals off the ionosphere. Those with such radios could then communicate with other operators around the world. But they were relatively few and far between. Today, we can communicate with almost anyone, anywhere and anytime. In addition, social media and the internet has given us access to an amazing amount of information. In the past, information was reserved to the experts and scholars, who would pass along such knowledge in papers. To do research, one had to go to libraries, look for books, and read and search material. Today, anyone can Google a few words and bingo, most information is at our fingertips.
But there’s a dark side to social media. This was best described by Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, in a recent speech:
It is true that the Facebook and Twitter revolutions have given voice to the muted masses. No more government newspapers which set the agenda. However, the enormous democratization of public discourse in social media has also created new types of demagoguery. If everyone is a journalist on his own accord, then the most respected newspaper is not preferable to the very last talk back writer.
We wanted to hear everyone, and we got the post-truth era, what is called today, ‘fake-news.’ We wanted to give a platform, but we hurt solidarity. We wanted democracy, but we weakened it. When parties use social media mainly to humiliate, bash and ridicule, instead of developing contact with the public: what kind of democratic dream is it? I have said in the past, and I will repeat this today: non-institutional democracy, a direct democracy in which the will of the people at any moment overrides any other consideration, is just a step away from anarchy. Anyone who has ever encountered a crowd knows how that a small event can quickly turn into a lynching and pogrom literally.
The dark side of social media is the propagation of fake news. This is news not properly vetted, not subject to intense and objective investigation. Fake news is all over the internet, which is then passed on through social media. Now, we have so-called experts on everything. This is extraordinarily dangerous. It undermines the truth. Sadly, some of the guiltiest parties are followers of Yeshua. It seems like his followers today are gullible for the latest conspiracy theory. It is a travesty, and it is undermining the integrity of the kingdom of God.
In the early 1980’s I was working in the US Senate. We were involved in one of President Reagan’s budget reconciliation bills, where the legislation sought to reduce government spending. It was incredibly complex, and negotiations between the Senate and the House went on for days. One evening a few of us staffers were in our Senator’s leadership office when the television evening news came on. Suddenly, they were reporting on the legislation that we were working on. The report took 15-30 seconds. Afterwards, I was stunned. The report was completely inaccurate. It’s not as if the reporters were trying to deceive anyone. Rather, I realized it was impossible to describe complex negotiations with a sound byte. And this was before social media!
When I worked on Capitol Hill, I became friendly with numerous reporters from various well known newspapers and magazines. The press play a critical role in society. Sometimes their reporting is frustrating. They will report things that you don’t want publicized. Occasionally, they will misconstrue the meanings of things, but if relationships are good, these can be corrected.
Today, independent, highly researched investigative reporting and writing is overtaken by highly-biased talk radio, so-called “internet and conspiracy experts,” and social media. This is best seen in the recent Russian disinformation campaign employed in the 2016 US elections. The Russians are experts in disinformation, having developed their expertise during the Soviet era.
With all this, let’s see what the Scriptures say about speech and communication:
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. – Matt. 12:36-37
Think about that – judged for every careless word spoken. How about every careless word you shared on social media? Ouch!
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Col. 4:6
Think about what is said on social media to others, especially on political topics. Again, the things I read and hear from believers are shocking. How can this be comported with Scripture?
I believe to be an effective witness in this world we must know what’s going on. But how can we know? The best sources are print media through well researched and vetted articles. The worst sources are talk radio (which is not news but rather entertainment), highly biased blogs (unless they are vetted by others) and most things posted on the internet. Facebook is not news. Before passing on articles and information, check them out with reliable sources. Personally, I read several reputable newspapers every day and read columnists considered to be moderately liberal to moderately conservative. Then, most of all, we need to be prayerful and discerning.
Again, I believe Yeshua would have used social media. But he’d be saying the same things he did 2000 years ago. Social media can be a great asset. But we must be careful to speak and share as Yeshua would. Never attack people’s character. Never pass on conspiracy theories or support perpetrators of fake news, which undermine the truth and damage the kingdom of God and its credibility.
Finally, before you share information, consider this acronym: THINK. Ask yourself, Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? This describes Yeshua-style speech.