Once again, the news is filled with the tragic images of families gathered to learn whether or not their child was among the dead. A gunman, after crashing his car nearby, entered a school, barricaded himself in a classroom and proceeded to kill 21 people, 19 of them children. The nation’s tear-filled eyes have turned toward Texas. Last week, it was a grocery store in New York and a church in California. Next week, none of us know where tragedy will strike.
However, we can be sure that, when it does, our conversations and our social media will fill with a wide variety of responses. In the case of gun violence, there will be the political posts attacking one party or the other. There will also be posts that will attempt to preach regarding the evils of our society. Thankfully, the most prevalent posts will probably be those that are expressing condolences and voicing that “thoughts” and “prayers” are happening.
As believers, we represent something more substantial than a political party, a lobbying group, or even the citizenship of our nation. We are representatives of God’s Kingdom. As such, we should seek to ensure that our responses are in alignment with a biblical worldview. The scripture tells us the value of a “word fitly spoken” but what does that mean in the face of these tragedies? While there are many factors at hand, I believe the following should be considered when believers are responding online.
1. Be considerate of the mourning
When families are still waiting for confirmation of whether or not their child is alive, it is probably not the best moment for us to be having a political fight about the laws surrounding weapons, the party whose policies we deem responsible, or what should be done legally in the days ahead. We may have the perfect meme or talking point to win the day for our point of view but holding on to it for a week will not make it less true. There is a time for robust discourse, but, unless you are actually in a position of authority to make immediate change, hours after a tragedy is probably not that time.
2. Be people of truth
The internet is a wild place. There are robust conspiracy theories about nearly every subject and disinformation abounds. Be careful what you share or the information that you repeat without doing real due diligence to investigate. False stories can be circulating within minutes of a major event occurring. Do not let yourself become a bearer of false witness. You do not have to be the first person in your circle to post about the event. Take some time to gather a more complete picture before speaking up. We have been entrusted with carrying God’s truth, we do not ever want to hinder our trustworthiness by the things we have shared without verifying.
3. Be people who pray, not just people who post about prayer
When you post that you are going pray, pray. In fact, you can pray without saying you are going to pray, but whatever you do, make sure that you actually do the praying part. Be a person that prays, not just someone that posts about praying. We believe that prayer works. Let’s do more of it.
4. Be pure of heart when communicating
One last thing to consider in these moments is the purity of our hearts. When we are communicating, we should ask ourselves why we are saying what we are saying, or even why we are saying anything at all. Are we responding because we feel social pressure to speak up when others are? Are we virtue signaling, trying to appear “good” or “just” in the sight of others? Are we pridefully seeking attention by being controversial? Do we desire affirmation for being seen as wise? Or, are we sincerely communicating our thoughts with our circle of friends? What is our purpose? Ultimately, our motive is only known by God and ourselves. Yet, it would do us good to do some self reflection before posting.
In a time of increasing sinfulness, an abundance of violence, and such rapid access to news, we will have many opportunities to choose how we respond to tragedy. Ultimately, as believers, we must remember we represent Christ above all else. Let us be careful to represent Him well.
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