When Facebook first came out, it was almost like a socially elite club. Beyond the walls of Harvard, they protected their membership by only letting you sign up with a university email address, and it wasn’t every university. Only the universities that signed on and let its students have access to this up and coming way of connecting with others could have students that did the same. In the early 2000’s, as I plugged away on MySpace and Xanga, I heard of this Facebook thing from one of my friends from high school. Her university had signed on. Mine had not. I wanted a Facebook account, but I couldn’t get one. Well, until Facebook opened it up to anyone with an email address. In that moment I could get an account and be a part of this great beast.
Over time and since the early 2000’s, Facebook has evolved. As technology has progressed and gotten further and further into realms not yet explored, Facebook has paved the way. But here’s the thing: just because the road is paved, doesn’t mean it’s the one you should be on. Facebook has allowed people to connect in ways our grandparents, or even parents, could never have imagined. I can at any moment meet someone from the other side of the world as easily meet someone at my local grocery store. We are more connected to the world than ever before. We have a larger audience than any arena. We have a platform that can proclaim thoughts and ideas, no matter if they are based on fact or not.
I have kept my Facebook account throughout the years, keeping touch with those I have met along this path of life. This social media giant has been used for good in my life to stay connected to friends and family all over the country and world. It can be a wonderful tool for doing so. But, I have been the one who chose to use social media in a positive way. There aren’t laws or rules to keep me from being sweet or a complete jerk. I have to practice self-control as to what I do on the internet. To be honest, there are basic general rules and standards as to what can happen on the internet, but beyond that, it’s a free for all. Almost like an anarchy of sorts.
This was clearly displayed on a Facebook LiveStream. Steve Stephens allegedly shot and killed a 74 year-old Robert Godwin Sr. who was walking home from an Easter celebration with his family. Robert was alone. Mr. Stephens had recently had a string of bad circumstances in his life, so he decided to randomly murder a man in cold blood all while streaming the event online for the world to see. Steve murdered on Facebook.
Mr. Stephens had a platform for everyone to see. He had a larger audience than the Roman Colosseum could ever hold, where thousands of Christians were murdered in the ancient world. He was connected to millions of people, yet felt completely alone in his struggle. He murdered another man on the internet who never saw it coming.
I don’t take this lightly. I don’t think what Mr. Stephens did is in any way right or acceptable. I think it was evil and cowardly. He didn’t have to see the faces of those who saw his actions. He didn’t give anyone a chance to tell him to stop, to get help, or to speak truth of the situation during his rants before he murdered. He just listened to his own thoughts and ideas, acted on them, and allowed the world to see.
During the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew, Jesus speaks about murder. It’s a pretty much understood thing that murder is bad and that we shouldn’t do it. Jesus states starting in Matthew 5:21,
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Pretty strong words. The listeners were thinking He was talking about actually killing someone, and Jesus switches gears and talks about being angry. What’s the big deal with being angry, Jesus? Well, anger when it takes root can grow into hatred and bitterness. God wants us to get rid of anger before the sun even sets (Ephesians 4:26) In First John, he writes “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murder has eternal life in [Jesus].” In our house, hate is a strong word. It means that you can’t find one nice thing about a person or thing. We don’t use that word lightly because it carries so much to it. Hate and love are both strong actions. Love can move mountains. Hate can destroy lives.
Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (emphasis added). On social media, it is easy to post hate, just as it is easy to post love. However, when we post hateful things about people or things different from us, we are committing murder on Facebook. The thing is, verbal murder has become accepted in our culture. Jimmy Kimmel even pokes fun of it on his bit “Mean Tweets”. It’s where celebrities will read to millions of people what one person has posted on Twitter about them. Some of them are really hurtful. Most have horrible grammar, but they are all meant to be hateful. According to the Bible, they are meant to murder. Which is not Jesus. It’s the enemy (John 10:10).
So, now what? I might be totally sweet on social media, never speaking ill of anyone or anything. Great! The Bible wasn’t written in the technology age. It was written when people didn’t have Facebook but actually talked face to face. Weird. My mouth speaks what’s in my heart. My words can murder and gossip or bring life and uplift. James writes in chapter 3, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
I don’t want to be like Mr. Stephens and murder on social media. I don’t want to murder, thinking I’m one of the socially elite, while drinking coffee with my friends. My words are the product of my heart. May the words of my mouth be uplifting to those who hear it and praise my God who gave me the breath in my lungs to speak the words and energy in my fingers to type them out. Because, let’s face it. Sticks and stones do break bones, but words cut to the heart.
photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee