Romans 14 and Issues Like Social Networking
If someone on the highway speeds past me and cuts me off, almost causing an accident, I don’t care if he gets caught by the police. However, if I do the same to someone else, I hope I don’t caught. We believe in justice. We just don’t like it when it applies to us. I can say the same thing about being judged. My flesh is repulsed by someone telling me that I’ve done wrong. I don’t normally like hearing from another person about how far off I am in some of my thinking. We don’t like to be judged.
All of us are going to be judged by God. “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). What God knows about what we do is what’s most important. And when God judges, He’s going to judge based upon more than whether the activity was right and wrong.
The Bible doesn’t say facebook or social networking are wrong. Because of that, people don’t want to be judged for using facebook. When I start talking about potential problems with it, people often don’t like hearing it. They don’t like to feel judged by me or anyone else. Just because facebook is permissible, doesn’t mean that it is God’s will for you to use it.
To make a good decision about whether we will use an online social network or not, we must look at the principles God gives us to judge matters that the Bible does not mention. The first half of Romans 14 says that we should not judge people so harshly in non-scriptural activities. Verses 1-12 of Romans 14 say that it’s okay to use facebook. After all, it is a non-moral issue that Scripture nowhere prohibits.
However, the second half of Romans 14 says that we should judge ourselves harshly on the same non-moral activities that we had liberty to practice. If we’re going to please God, then we don’t judge them based just upon whether they are right or wrong. The strong Christian doesn’t flaunt his liberties or rights and demand them, but restrains himself in them for the sake of others. There is nothing wrong with playing pick-up basketball, but that doesn’t mean that I should play on Sunday mornings. There are reasons why not.
There are two related reasons why it is that we don’t just do anything we want even if it might be permissible to do so. We might have a right or a liberty to do something, but that isn’t the only criteria. We also must ask:
Will Someone Else Be Affected?
The Christian Harmed by a Stumbling Block
An activity may be lawful to do, but it could cause someone else to stumble. Facebook is a tool, but one that has trappings built into it. Paul wrote in Romans 14:13:
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
Instead of being concerned about whether we’re being judged or not, we should judge ourselves by asking if our continuation will harm someone else. God is our Judge, but He will judge us not just for what we do, but also for what impact what we do will have on others. There are many ways that a weaker believer could be harmed by facebook. We must consider whether our example could result in the potential spiritual hurt of others.
We can see some of the harm that we cause others in vv. 13-15. One of us might be able to handle facebook. However, there might be someone else who can’t. It may waste his time. It may result in him getting caught up with the wrong people. It might draw him away from God by his addiction. In the end, he is grieved by the problems he has because of facebook. At that time, he might remember that he went ahead and joined because we were there already.
What I am hearing from some commenting about facebook is something like: “There are numbers of ways that people can sin. If they were going to sin at facebook, then they probably would have chosen someplace else to sin anyway. Since they were going to sin one way or another, we shouldn’t be kept from facebook just because of them.” However, there are dangers on facebook. I believe that they are too heavy for many, if not most Christians, to remain obedient to God. However, they may not be too much for certain believers. Those Christians must think about how that their continued association with facebook might result in the future grief (v. 15a) or destruction (v. 15b) of others.
The Christian Harmed by Loss of Testimony
You may think that an activity is fine to do. It might be. But “your good could be evil spoken of” (v. 16). There is one verb in v. 16 and from it comes the English word “blaspheme.” Since it is a liberty, it is a good. However, if your good causes the world to see us in a different way, in a way that causes “men” (v. 18, not a reference to believers) for whom Christ died to turn from God, to blaspheme, then we should not do it.
Verse 17 tells a little about how this could occur. An unbeliever might miss out on a true understanding of the kingdom of God because we would rather prioritize what God has allowed us to do rather than what He wants us to do. It might be that our liberty keeps us from evangelistic opportunities. If we spend hours on a facebook page and never talk about Jesus in a scriptural manner with the kind of seriousness that would represent Him in a salvific way, then the lost will not understand Him, His kingdom, or His life. Someone can’t just “drop” the name of Jesus into a mass of commonality or profanity as an accurate representation of Him.
An unsaved man might ask, “If Jesus is really Lord, what doesn’t this man talk about Jesus like He is?” Or, “If He believes in Jesus Christ, then why does the subject matter of his conversation not differ from mine?”
While I was on facebook the short time I was there, I never heard anything good about Jesus or what He had to offer. The talk was a clean waste, but nevertheless just as much a waste as any unbeliever’s talk. These social networking sites are not conducive, I believe, to evangelism. They tend to weaken or cheapen Christian testimony.
And we also should ask:
Will It Build Up Someone Else?
Does facebook result in the building up of other believers? Will this be something that edifies the most in the most constructive way?
As other believers relate to our Christian liberties, they should receive us in non-scriptural issues (Rom 14:1). Facebook is one of those. However, as we judge ourselves and our use of our liberties, we should see our lives as the Lord’s. They aren’t our own liberties but God’s for Him to use. Our desire should be to do what He wants us to do, since we’re going to be judged by Him. If we see facebook that way, then we won’t be angry if we feel like someone is judging us in our usage of it. In matters of liberty, we’re called to think first of God and then of others. Will He be pleased as our Judge? Will we cause others some kind of spiritual harm or will we edify them?
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