We’ve all had that nightmare when we showed up to some public place “inadequately dressed.” The shame! The horror! The embarrassment! Then we wake up. Whew. It’s a common nightmare because the idea of the general public seeing us at our most vulnerable is very scary. One of the unfortunate side effects of social media is that now we have the opportunity to not only be made aware of others’ failings, but also comment on them.
This is where we can quickly get caught up in the tide of judging others. By “judging” I mean condemning people with an attitude of superiority. When we sinfully judge others, we take God’s place and pronounce a verdict.
What if your sin was made public? It wouldn’t be much different than the nightmare. Shame. Horror. Embarrassment. What would people think of you? The current trend on social media is that people will tell you exactly what they think, mock you, and maybe even threaten you.
The truth is our sin is that bad. But often as participants in the court of public opinion we are quick to pass down guilty verdicts and scoff at the sin of others. Maybe we feel better about ourselves by casting stones at others. Maybe it’s just the mob mentality. Whatever the reasons we participate in public floggings, it isn’t right.
When we take part in these social media tar and featherings, we are acting as if we are better. But if it was our sin that was made public, we’d quickly realize that we have plenty to be ashamed of and embarrassed about.
All this boils down to a fundamental failure to understand the gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ isn’t that God will forgive those who have nothing to hide. The good news of Jesus Christ is that God forgives sinners of their shameful sin by taking their place on the cross. The church isn’t filled with better people, it’s filled with forgiven people.
Sadly, our Christian social media presence doesn’t reflect how much grace we have received. This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant. A servant was forgiven a huge debt by his master, then on the way home demanded payment of a small debt from someone who owed him. When the master found out, he confronted this hypocrisy,
“You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” -Matthew 18:32-33
How about that? How about instead of heaping condemnation on the person, we treat them with grace and mercy? This doesn’t mean we condone sin, it means we pursue people with the gospel, offering them hope and forgiveness. Yes we confront sin, but following Jesus’ instruction in the context of the church (Matthew 18:15-17). The goal is always restoration, not public shaming.
It’s time for us to start speaking (and commenting) like we believe we’re people who’ve been forgiven an eternal debt. It’s time for us to show the world what grace looks like and sounds like. Who knows? next time, it could be your sin in the headlines.