Social networking sites — favourite haunts for many in this day and age — have slowly become the new frontier where the battle between good and evil is being relentlessly fought. This is a new arena that is fraught with serious, often deadly, pitfalls and the challenge for us Christians is to tread wisely like those that walk on egg shells.
by PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
Those that lock their doors with three keys are safer. What do I mean? It’s basically what my Bible tells me. 1 Peter 5:8 –9, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
Social networks that are proliferating on the internet are, by nature, addictive. Although it’s good for us as followers of Christ to use these platforms for spreading the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, the unfortunate thing is that the devil somehow appears to have beaten us to the game.
Many unbelievers are now using these platforms to spread evil like a malignant cancer. These social networks include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Blogger as well as mobile phone applications like Whatsapp Messenger. On a number of occasions, I have received from various contacts some messages derived from the Bible, including seemingly innocent scriptural references. One of the whatsapp texts, said at the end: “Send this message to 10 people including me. God told me to tell you that everything you are going through is taken care of. Let’s see if this works. If you send it to the 10 people, watch who calls in 53 seconds!”
Usually, I delete these kinds of messages upon receipt because my conviction is that it’s not how the God I serve operates. He doesn’t pander to the whims of those who dabble in divination, sorcery and astrology. The Bible says: “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times… or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 18:10 – 12).
Bulk messages on Whatsapp and Facebook that end up compelling receivers to pass on to several other people in order for God to do something in their lives or answer their prayers, should be ignored and deleted promptly.
I look at this whole thing with the same lenses I use for horoscopes, commonly known as stars of the Zodiac, which is the soul of astrology. One website I checked defined astrology as “the study of correlations of celestial events with behaviour on earth, particularly correlations, which cannot be explained by gravitation, magnetism, or other forces that are well-established in physics or other sciences.”
During the whirlwind teenage years in the early 1990s, I was obsessed with the 12 signs of the Zodiac to such a degree that I began to study them after acquiring a detailed book on the star signs. I will, however, not wade deeper into this subject (which probably calls for its own post at a later stage), suffice to say that what science has failed to explain is for God to reveal to us, and what God has chosen to keep hidden from us does not belong to us. Deuteronomy 29: 29, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
On Facebook, you are literally arm–twisted to click the “like” button on some supposedly faith post to prove that you are a Christian. Do I really have to prove my faith on Facebook? No. The God who called me knows me by name and knows, too, that I am a man of faith, whether or not I “like” such posts on social networks. As far as I believe, such posts belong to the trash can and that’s where I forward them!
Thank God, however, that there are many, on the other hand, who have opted to use the social networking sites as a platform for the furtherance of the gospel, which is the power to salvation for all that believe. Several churches have used the same platforms to ensure that members remain connected in the spirit through sharing of scriptures for exhortation, prayer points and ideas for meditation. These writings are succinct, and do not set a binding conditionality compelling the receiver to forward to several other people within their networks so that their own prayers would be answered.
There is no doubt that millions of people are running toward social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to participate in virtual relationships. For Christians, there is need to appreciate that while such online spaces could be the next big mission field, there is need for us to put in place spiritual safety precautions through fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The spirit of God should guide us on which sites to frequent and how we should use them. The question that we should first ask ourselves is “does what we are doing bring glory to God?” (I Corinthians 10:31)
The chief executive officer of a site called www.gotquestion?.org, Michael Houdman, gives this incisive observation: “Christians should be aware of the danger of the narcissism [excessive self-love and preoccupation with self] inherent in self-oriented sites. Studies have shown that overuse or wrong motives in social media participation can breed narcissism. When we rely on social media sites primarily to promote ourselves or draw attention to ourselves, it is time to take a step back. It’s wise to utilise accountability, encouraging spouse, family members, and Christian brothers and sisters to view our social networking activity and hold us accountable.”
The beauty about social media for the believer, however, is that we can turn it into an enormous harvest field for souls. It can help expand our sphere of influence and consequently provide us with evangelistic opportunities. Such networking sites allow us to enter other people’s daily lives and open up new avenues for sharing Christ. As such, we can influence the views of others by what we post, bringing encouragement and spiritual guidance to others and using friends’ lists or status updates to pray regularly for friends and their needs. God bless you!