Who You Are Online and How You Treat Your Digital Neighbors Matters

iStock-939030682The Internet is now commonplace – for our schools, our homes, and even our churches. However, we are all still learning how to navigate the digital age, and the ways we harness the power of the Internet will greatly influence the ways others view us.

We can use the power of the Internet for good or destruction. Those who seek to live Christian lives should be intentional about using the Internet to build up rather than tear down. Unfortunately, too many use the power they find on the web destructively rather than encouragingly. Let’s look at the reasons why we should be concerned with how we treat others in cyberspace.

The Power of the Internet to Give Answers

Kids today are being taught to search the Internet to find answers to their questions. They no longer visit stacks of encyclopedias; now, they are sent to Google. Knowing millions of people are turning to the Internet to find answers, we should be cognizant of the information we provide online.  For example, when it comes to looking for churches, millennials (and those generations after them) are more likely to search for a church online before they visit in person. Therefore, it is important church websites provide clear information about services, beliefs, and what to expect.

People feel more comfortable anonymously asking questions online than in person. We should use wisdom responding to questions in cyberspace in the same way we would when speaking to someone directly. With the numerous faith-based apps and online Bible study tools, Jesus followers and those curious about the Bible can easily find answers to their faith-based queries.

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that
you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
 – Colossians 4:6

The Power of the Internet to Provide Help

The Internet makes it easier for people to get help. However, there are plenty of harmful websites. This is why it is important to use trustworthy sources. For example, South Bay Bible Church’s website includes links to credible, helpful sources.

Plus, the Internet is wonderful in getting real-time help for those in need. If someone is dealing with addiction, Christians can easily find biblically-based help for the individuals. Check out these links:

The Power of the Internet to Build Community

Often, people complain about how disconnected this generation is from society. While there is truth in the statement, it is also true the Internet can be used to build community. People form online groups, send out virtual invitations, and take part in cyber conversations. The Internet allows individuals to form connections with people all over the world.

We can harness this power for good within the church community. For instance, church social media make it easy to stay up to date and connect with others who attend the same church. Utilizing social media, the church community can respond and engage with the church and each other.

The Power of the Internet to Reach People

Along these same lines, the ability to build a community makes it easier to reach people. The Internet is the single biggest mission field in the 21st century. Many Christians use the Internet to give hope and point to Jesus as the answer. When Bible verses, blog posts from Christian leaders, and sermon videos are shared across social media, people are reached who may never set foot in a physical church. The Internet provides unique opportunities to reach people outside the traditional walls of the church.

The Power of Your Words Online

We must harness the power of the Internet carefully. Too many people mistakenly thinking their online life is somehow separate from real life. This has never been the case. Who you are online is a direct reflection of your heart. Therefore, we can’t act as digital disciples one minute and post harmful posts the next. Hypocrisy is always something nonbelievers point out in Christians; therefore, our digital footprint makes this easier than ever before. All someone has to do is scroll through your social media posts to see when you built up and when you tore down.

"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.” 
– Ephesians 4:29

While we all fall short in the physical and digital world, we should strive to treat those we encounter online as our digital neighbors. And, what does Jesus say about our neighbors? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).”

In this story, the person asking Jesus about eternal life follows Jesus’ response by asking Jesus to define his neighbor. Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan. When it comes to being a digital disciple, it’s wise to remember Jesus’ words and speak compassionately with love online just as you would in real life. Be a good Samaritan to the Internet trolls, to those you disagree with politically, and to those who cheer for the other team.

One final note – Before you react in haste and hit enter on a typed-up, anonymous message, erase it, say a prayer, and start over with your heart in the right place.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
– James 1:19