“They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” goes the old hymn, written in the 1960s by priest Peter Scholtes. The song references a Biblical quote from Jesus. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” He says in John 13:35.
Jesus spoke about the importance of love often. In John 15:12, Jesus gives the command “Love each other as I have loved you.” In Mark 12:30, when asked about the most important commandment, He has this to say:
But when it comes to our online interactions as Christians, we don’t often do this well. We might take to Twitter to defend the faith by speaking out against sin, seeing ourselves as culture warriors who must tell the world what is right and wrong. We might get defensive on Facebook, arguing in long comment threads with atheists to try and prove the flaws in their reasoning. We might even comment on Instagram photos to remind people about the virtues of modesty.
There is nothing wrong with speaking out against sin, defending the faith through theological reasoning, or encouraging virtue. But there is a time and place for everything. In many situations, doing so will have no effect or might even be detrimental. We have to understand our audience, where the person is on their faith journey, what they think about God, what they know about Christianity, and their relationship with us, among other factors.
But one thing that will always be influential is to love one another. If we make a point of loving our friends, family members, neighbors, and Instagram followers, we can help reflect the love of Christ, and in the process, make our faith something they might want to know more about.
But how can we do that online? We recently met with Katie Lei during a recent episode of Indigitous PULSE to discuss that. Katie is a content strategist who has served in church ministry for eight years. She’s passionate about helping people encounter Jesus.
A Facebook post changes a life
Katie knows firsthand the power of sharing Jesus on digital platforms. A former atheist, at one point in her life she found herself seeking something more. She started exploring various religions and spiritual practices, looking for something that would fill the emptiness in her heart. One morning when she was browsing Facebook on her phone, she came across a friend’s post that shared a Christian worship song.
“As I was reading the lyrics of the song I felt an encounter, this sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated. I didn’t know why, but I started to cry,” Katie says. Moved by the worship song, Katie got in touch with her friend, who then shared her faith.
“She had this sense of peace in her and I was fascinated by that,” Katie says. Katie then reluctantly agreed to go to church with her friend and over time, God revealed Himself to Katie and she gave her life to Christ.
Sharing with different audiences
Though the Gospel doesn’t change, different ways of communicating it will resonate with different people. When Katie thinks of her friends and followers on social media, she puts them in three categories:
People we don’t know: On platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok, we have a lot of people following us that we don’t actually know. These are strangers who have chosen to engage with us.
“For these people, my responsibility is to authentically share what God is doing in my life,” Katie says.
Authenticity is important. We often portray a more perfect version of our lives on social media, but for this to work, we need to be open and honest about our lives, our relationship with Jesus, and how that walk with God has impacted our lives.
Social media friends: We all have a lot of friends on social media that we kind of know, but don’t have a relationship with them. Maybe they’re a friend of a friend, maybe we met them at a networking event once. Maybe we went to school together but didn’t actually talk to each other much.
“Because this group of people you don’t really have a personal connection with, I would say minimize your sharing to the sociable level,” Katie says. We wouldn’t get into an argument with someone we met once on a business trip. And we probably wouldn’t get into a deep discussion while at a friend’s party. If we talk to these people in person, we would keep things pleasant. The same holds true for online interactions.
“You want to be helpful, to demonstrate the life and the nature of Jesus to them,” Katie says. “Because they don’t really know you, and if their only encounter with you is you arguing with them then we can easily walk away leaving a wrong impression.”
Personal connections: The third group of people is those with whom we have strong personal connections. These are our close friends, our family members, people who know us well and we spend time with regularly. With this group, we can go further, have deeper conversations.
“Try to see where they are in life. Try to listen to what they’re posting and what they’re sharing,” Katie says. Based on that, we can minister to them with the heart of Jesus. Remember that when Jesus went from town to town, He not only proclaimed the Gospel, but He also met their physical needs, through things like prayer, healing, and providing food.
With our personal connections, we can get closer. Find out how they’re hurting and how we can help. “I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus because God placed me in their lives,” Katie says.
Sharing based on spiritual journey
Whether they’re an atheist, agnostic, someone seeking God but not knowing who He is, or a Christian, everyone is on a spiritual journey. While the Gospel doesn’t change, the way we talk about God to an atheist isn’t necessarily the same way we would talk about Him to someone who is seeking.
For Katie, with people she doesn’t know, all she focuses on is proclaiming what God is doing in her life. But for the other two audiences, she can tailor her message a bit.
For her social media friends, Katie asks questions to find out where they are spiritually and what they believe. “I always ask open-ended questions to have a sense of where they are in their spiritual journey,” Katie says.
Some friends act like they’re fine and don’t need help. But if a friend shares that she is lost and confused about where she is in life, Katie presses in. “To me that is a signal that there could be a good opening for a spiritual conversation. But I still wouldn’t go fully in with the Gospel. I still would ask open-ended questions,” Katie says.
For the close personal connections, there are more opportunities for sharing the Gospel. It might take a few conversations. It might take years. Katie looks at each conversation as planting a seed and it’s up to God to make it grow. During the process, no matter how long it takes, it’s important to always speak from a place of love without being angry or judgmental.
“Be genuine. Be honest. Be authentic. People can sense that and they respond to that. By being that way, you are witnessing for Christ big time. You are planting seeds,” Katie says.
How to share love on social media
When face to face, showing love to another person can be as simple as a hug, bringing them a meal, helping them with a home-improvement project, or inviting them to get coffee. On our social media platforms it’s a little trickier, but can still be done.
It could be sharing an article that promotes understanding and love or sharing ways that people can help solve some of the world’s problems. It could mean listening to someone who needs to vent. If someone we’re messaging shares areas of need, are there any ways we can help meet those needs?
Sharing your story
A lot of witnessing on social media is about sharing your story, but it can be difficult to know what to share. Particularly if we’ve never had an overly dramatic conversion experience, what would we talk about? God has given each person a story. Take some time to pray to God for wisdom and write down any insights that He shares.
“Look at the journey you have walked with Him, where you felt loved and touched, where you felt your life was transformed because of Him, where you felt that your faith is truly your strength,” Katie says. “As you reflect back on those journeys with God, those are the powerful tools that God has equipped you with to share His Good News. It’s just about your story with Him.”
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
- This week, be intentional about looking through your social media feed for somebody who is in need.
- Find a way to love that person.
- Let us know how it goes.
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