Ephesians 4:29 in the Age of Facebook

[Via Kevin DeYoung]

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

(Eph. 4:29 ESV)

I have enjoyed being on Facebook more than I thought I would.  Even though a number of my like-minded friends are still resisting, I have been pleasantly surprised by how I’ve been able to connect or re-connect with people, often in kind of light-hearted ways, but sometimes more substantially too.

Having said that, I have to say there are many times when the ‘cringe factor’ kicks in when I see what some people post. Biblical teaching and Christian ethics have always taken aim at corrupt and corrupting communicating: gossip, lying (bearing false witness), slander (not merely in its specific legal meaning…the Greek word essentially means to ‘say bad things’ about someone), etc.

Reckless words pierce like a sword,  but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Prov. 12:18 NIV) I read a lot of ‘reckless words’ on Facebook – from Christians, I mean. A spouse will post something that may seem innocent on one level, but in actuality can’t help but embarrass their partner. A church member will gossip about a situation, using inflammatory language that simultaneously indicates they do not have a firm grasp on the actual facts, and, perhaps most common of all, personally insulting attacks on political leaders of the opposite party and perspective (defying Paul’s teaching in Titus 3:1-4).

It is bad enough when you gossip or slander or lie in a room or a hallway or at a restaurant table  with only another person or two around, but with a medium like Facebook these sins of speech go global. And make no mistake, that’s just what they are – sins of ‘speech’ – even if the speech takes the form of a Facebook update, a blogpost or a ‘tweet.’

Jesus said thatout of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks“and we could faithfully add, “…and the fingers on the keyboard type.” Then he went on to say, “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken [posted, emailed, tweeted]. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:34-36 NIV)

As always what makes such sinning doubly sad is that it represents such a wasted opportunity – because our words, our communication, have such enormous potential to do good – to “bring healing” says the Proverb…to “give grace” says Paul. In fact, a quick summary of Paul’s teaching in Eph. 4:29 sets the standard for all form of our communicating as Christians – our speaking and writing can and should edify and strengthen, meet real needs, and bring God’s grace and truth into the lives of others.

Thankfully, I’ve seen a good measure of that on Facebook too, from simple posts like “I love my family” from one joyful, grateful husband and dad, to inspirational sayings from all kinds of sources…. from well-written, Scripture-shaped blog entries that teach and challenge, to Facebook status updates that  tell of God’s saving, sanctifying work going forward in and through the lives of his people.

So now, more than ever, in the era of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and blogging, may we as the people who have been won over by the Word, and professed allegiance to the Good News, repent of the sins of corrupt and corrupting communication as we aim to please the Lord and serve others with our words as well as our works.

***

[Via Justin Taylor]

A few questions to keep in mind before you comment and before you hit “post”:

  • Is this comment gracious? (Col. 4:6)
  • Is this comment seasoned with salt? (Col. 4:6)
  • Is this comment corrupting? (Eph. 4:29)
  • Is this comment seeking to build up the church for good? (Eph. 4:29)
  • Is this comment intended to give grace to those who read it? (Eph. 4:29)
  • Is this comment fitting and appropriate? (Eph. 4:29)
  • Is this comment true? Is this comment written in love? (Eph. 4:15, 25)
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