More and more, believers use social media to have heated debates on various aspects of faith and Christianity. The most polarizing discussions seem to involve naming and shaming fallen believers; especially high-profile leaders and public figures. Reading these posts, it’s hard to tell if the goal is repentance and restoration or just public flogging. In my opinion, social media shaming does more harm than good. Here’s why.
Restoration is the work of the local church.
Because believers have a redemptive relationship with Christ, we also have a position in His body – the Church. Accountability and restoration are key ministries of a local body of believers. Few churches, however, follow biblical instruction to confront and correct individual members. Even fewer consider expelling those who are blatantly unrepentant. But our failure to engage in church discipline is not a permission slip to confront fellow believers on social media.
The digital world isn’t equipped to handle relational ministry. There’s usually little to no personal knowledge of the individual in question. Nor is there an awareness of how he or she is responding to private confrontation or to the work of the Holy Spirit. As a result, online confrontations tend to be cold and accusatory. As the consequences of sinful choices pile up, face-to-face accountability is crucial. Sin doesn’t let go easily. A local church offers spiritual instruction and encouragement to anyone willing to repent; at least it should.
Speculation is divisive and destructive.
Just because people have accurate information doesn’t mean they have complete information. It’s safe to assume that there’s more behind any story we read on social media. Still, people love to hypothesize and theorize in their comments; often demanding a confession for every perceived sinful action. Such careless conjecture causes great harm. Typically, supporters and accusers end up in a war of words for all the world to read. Emotional outbursts on social media cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit. Only He can bring conviction and repentance. After all, dealing with the hurt and shame of sin privately is difficult enough.
Public opinion becomes more important than biblical truth.
We live in an era that values personal opinion and experience above biblical truth. This is quickly becoming the case in Christianity as well. Social media is the court of public opinion. It acts as judge and jury, needing only an implication of wrong to sentence would-be transgressors. Any evidence not fitting the current cultural narrative can be dismissed, or even denied. As followers of Christ, however, we should prize biblical truth over human reasoning and emotion.
Pointing out the sins of others promotes self-righteousness.
We tend to perceive other people’s sins as larger or worse than our own. Let’s call this being plank wise and speck dumb. Personally, I think we’re more judgmental when we’ve allowed some sin to find safe harbor in our lives. We see biblical evidence of this in the lives of Eli (1 Sam. 1) and King David (2 Sam. 12). As long as we’re guarding our own planks, condemning the specks of others drowns out the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The result is that we become more comfortable with our own disobedience, by comparison. This is no different than the self-righteous behavior of the Pharisees who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery.
So, let’s honestly examine why we’re posting our opinions in the first place. Is the purpose restoration or punishment? Do we want to see the fallen saint forgiven or simply remembered for their failure? Social media shaming abandons fallen believers in a digital dungeon. There is no help without confession and repentance; but with it, there should be no lack of help. It’s our responsibility to encourage one another in our walk with Christ. Instead of joining the latest debate, why not intercede for the repentance and recovery of a fellow believer?