A plumber once aptly observed that with the invention of PVC piping, “Everyone’s now a plumber.” To borrow his line of reasoning, one could also state that with the invention of the Internet, “Everyone’s now a pundit.” Defined, a pundit is “an expert in a particular subject or field who is frequently called on to give opinions about it to the public.” Online forums such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like give ample opportunity for college football pundits to laud the glories of their chosen team. As well, plant loving pundits explain how to grow a better daffodil, and culinary pundits demonstrate how to bake a better cake. Amongst the pundits are also those keenly interested in politics and social issues. Often with sharp rhetoric, these would-be experts decry “media lies” and boldly promote their candidate, cause, or social issue with vim and vigor. With audiences that can sometimes grow into the thousands, the temptation to proclaim loudly and often has great appeal. Where, though, do the children of God belong in the midst of the punditry? It is a question with no easy answer.
Is there a place for Christians in social media settings? The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes! Both the Lord, Jesus Christ, and His disciples took great advantage of opportunities to reach the most people with the message of salvation. Jesus spoke to crowds so large He found it necessary to use a boat as His pulpit (Mark 4:1). The apostles often frequented the temple and synagogues, knowing that large crowds could take occasion to hear their message. In modern times, both churches and individual Christians have wisely made good Bible teaching available for the world to read and hear. Once, a sermon was heard only by those assembled in a church’s auditorium; now it is often streamed throughout the word, garnering wide audiences. Both churches and individuals have valuable written material available online that, again, allows a wide span of distribution. There is no doubt about the good that can be accomplished in such efforts.
What, though, about a Christian’s involvement in social and political causes? Should his or her voice ring out about politics and the like? In determining an answer to this question, several considerations should be taken into account:
- Is this following the model of the Scriptures? In reading the words of Jesus and His apostles, it becomes apparent they never involved themselves in social causes. For example, the unfairness of first-century slavery was not addressed; instead, it was discussed in the context of how slaves and masters should respond to one another based on their relationship with God (see I Peter 2 and Philemon). The government of Rome was not the topic of their words and writings, except that the emperor should be honored (I Peter 2:17). In other words, vitriol toward government institutions and anger over social causes was not the primary concern of our Lord and His apostles, though surely it was troublesome to them. Their focus was on saving souls and helping God’s people maintain a good relationship with Him.
- Is this bolstering a reputation as one “looking for a city with foundations?” The Bible is filled with individuals seeking something better than this life. The section of Scripture perhaps bringing this out most clearly is Hebrews 11. For these faithful saints, God records that they sought something better than this life. This interest lay in one day being with Him.
- Is this bolstering the reputation of one seeking to bring others to “the peace that passes understanding?” If the reputation of a child of God is primarily one of politics or activism, the work he or she hopes to accomplish in Christ is greatly compromised. While true for all of God’s people, this should be a keen point of concern for men dedicated to preaching the gospel or serving as elders in local churches. Social media posts that excoriate those who are deemed political “opponents” will shut doors that might have otherwise been open to the gospel. Sharp vitriol on social issues, even when a godly stand is taken, may shut ears that might have once been willing to hear.
- Is the language used becoming of a representative of the kingdom of God? The apostle Paul warns that words must be chosen carefully (Colossians 4:6); thus vulgarity, profanity, and incendiary words have no place in speech, whether written or spoken. Even “liking” or “retweeting” posts with such language can diminish one’s reputation as a stalwart representative of the King. Words have meaning and power; therefore, they must be used with caution.
As with many things in this life, there is no “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” concerning punditry. However, principles laid down within the holy Word 2,000 years ago are still as important, impactful, and essential in modern times as they were when written. Before posting for the world to see, the Christian pundit must think through how this will impact his or her own reputation as a child of God, and whether it will diminish aiding another in coming to Christ. In 1835, the poet Beth Day penned a poem admonishing readers to think carefully before they speak about another. The message of this 19th century poem provides great admonition for those who seek to make their thoughts known electronically in the 21st.
If you are tempted to reveal
A tale to you someone has told
About another, make it pass,
Before you speak, three gates of gold.
These narrow gates: First, "Is it true?"
Then, "Is it needful?" In your mind
Give truthful answer. And the next
Is last and narrowest, "Is it kind?"
And if to reach your lips at last
It passes through these gateways three,
Then you may tell the tale, nor fear
What the result of speech may be.