“My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there,’ or, ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts” James 2:1-4 (NRSV)?
I always say I’m thankful I did not grow up in the era of social media. Every mistake, misstep and miscommunication can be recorded and posted for the world to view and critique. I remember when I first came forward for ministry. I literally went from the club to the church. I was scared because a local club had a picture of me and my friends on their website. I wrestled for months with what people would think if they found out my picture was on the club’s website.
Now, with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a host of others, it takes only a matter of hours for people to shape and formulate an opinion of who they believe you to be. And it’s not just your immediate circle of peers anymore. It’s the whole world. We see the pressure social media put on the NFL to can Baltimore Raven Ray Rice. There is no doubt social media played a role in the decision. In a matter of hours, everyone was talking about him, his wife, domestic violence and their personal experience. I’m not condoning his behavior. I’m merely using this incident as an example of the power of social media.
In the case of Ray Rice, many agree that social media was used effectively to get a positive outcome and send a message about domestic violence. However, what about when social media is used to demean, blacklist or assassinate someone’s character? How do we respond then?
In James chapter 2, believers are admonished to not show partiality and favoritism. Social media is making that harder and harder. It is hard for us to not show favoritism or partiality because oftentimes, we’ve already judged a person or come to our own conclusions about someone based on what we find about them online. Sadly, in some cases, what we find simply is not true. It’s heresy. If we take the information and run with it, then we miss opportunities to minister to people who truly need it!
“For God shows no partiality” Romans 2:11 (NRSV).
Well, what if the information is true? What if it’s something the individual posted themselves? What if it’s video footage of the person? Well, I believe Jesus would still have us to respond with impartiality. I believe impartiality is imperative because you can’t love someone or reach them for the cause of Christ, if you’ve already come to a conclusion about them in your head. In our humanness, we are quick to write people off as lost causes. However, where would we be if the Lord wrote us off and summed us up based on our online profile or by our past? There certainly would be no Paul a.k.a. Saul. (Again, this is not in response to Ray Rice.)
Would Kim Kardashian be welcomed in your church?
It all boils down to this. Would Kim Kardashian or someone like her be welcomed in your church? She’s famous because of a sex tape. There are memes all over the internet about her. She’s been married multiple times. People make jokes about her and disgusting comments about her on Instagram. Could you, as a Christian, treat her with impartiality despite her web presence? Would you usher her to the front pew, not because she’s a celebrity, but because she needs the Lord and her soul thirsts for the Living Water? There are “Kim Kardashian’s” everywhere who need ministry. There are even “Ray Rice’s” who need someone to reach out to them to show them the more excellent way.
Can we deal with them with impartiality?
This is the question many of us as believers have to ask ourselves as we participate in online conversations and on social media platforms. Are we contributing to the demise of someone’s spirit, or are we treating them with impartiality?
What are your thoughts? I know this gets into the whole “do not judge” issue.