We live in a visual world. People are often judged on the basis of how they look and what they own. We’re pressured to make sure our outfits are clean and crisp, our hair is always in place, and whatever we own better be the best and newest version.
The tendency to live a perfect, flaw-free life extends far beyond the physical world. Our digital personas can also fall into the trap of editing and filtering.
In today’s time, where our iPhones are always in our back pockets ready to capture every moment, how do we live a life that is real and unedited? When it comes to our Christian walks, social media can be a slippery slope. Here is why:
There is no denying that there is a certain “look” among Christians, especially Christian 20 somethings. I bet you’re picturing it now… Chacos, flannels, Hebrew tattoo on the wrist, etc. This stereotypical person is often found in your local coffee shop journaling in a nice Moleskin. This person also has the tendency to snap a quick photo of the verse they’ve been journaling about and post it to their Snapchat or Instagram account. No harm in that, right? Well, there certainly can be.
The Problem: We have an identity crisis
The “look” that you develop as a Christian is not what makes you a Christian. Buying a good pair of Chacos is not a sin (in fact, it’s a rather good life decision), and it’s okay to hang up bible verses in your room. But these things are not the meat of being a Christian. They are only the by-product. The danger in being surrounded by putting your Christian life on social media is that it can make you feel like you are being “good”. But, if you take away all of the “pretty” things about being a Christian, would you still have a real, personal relationship with Jesus?
This is hard for my life. It’s tempting for me to follow the culture and fit the mold. When I moved onto my college campus, I found a niche of young Christian friends. It truly is a great community. However, in some unhealthy times in my life, I found myself trying to prove myself to them by outwardly showing them I was strong in my faith. But no matter how many times I make an Instagram post about my really successful quiet time, it does not make me feel any more full inside.
The Solution: Jesus sees us for who we are
I do not need look like a modern Christian in order to love and be truly loved by God. Jesus could care less about what I look like. He sees right to my heart. Plot twist: I am not required to ink scripture into my wrist in order to prove I am a Child of God. Scripture says,
“For by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Our stance with God is exactly zero percent reliant upon our works.
But no matter how many times I make an Instagram post about my really successful quiet time, it does not make me feel any more full inside.
Let me break this down for you: Your appearance on social media is not an indication of what type of Christian you are. Just because you didn’t “like and share” that Facebook post from Relevant magazine doesn’t mean you missed out on an opportunity to prove your worth.
And let me emphasize one more thing: God already sees you for the way that you are. And He already loves you for the way that you are. Social media can provide a temptation to present yourself in a way that is shinier and “better” than what is really true. At the end of the day, you should be able to close the VSCO app, put your phone down and feel loved by Christ just as equally.
If you feel like you are trying hard to prove your love for the Lord to the people around you, especially through social media, I encourage you to explore the heart of that issue. There is a piece of scripture that is very necessary in today’s time:
“You have searched me, Lord,
And you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.”
There are so many things to love about social media. In fact, I spent my summer serving Love Thy Neighborhood as the social media manager. It can definitely be used for the greater good. When I first learned that I was taking on this role, I was a little hesitant.
I fear miscommunication. In my role as social media manager, I have learned that advertising our story is important, but these stories don’t mean much if there is no honesty beneath the surface. After two months of posting about testimonies, outreach days, and curriculum quotes, I’ve seen a lot of the highlights of our summer here at Love Thy Neighborhood. However, we are walking a thin line when we are portraying ourselves in a way that is not true to who we really are. Our lives are not just a series of highlights. We are real people with highlights, lowlights, and everything in between. And God knows that!
In Psalms, God assures us that He knows us fully. He has searched every part of us and loves us still.
So here’s my advice: Don’t try to rely on your social media presence to strengthen your relationship with God. Don’t try and prove that you are the perfect Christian. You are fully known and fully loved at a much deeper level, so that’s where your focus should be.
Sydney Marsman is from Naples, Florida and made an impact serving in the Nonprofit Leadership track during the summer of 2017. She currently attends Florida State University where she is studying Creative Writing.