One of the fun aspects of blogging is getting to view my website’s traffic. Ever since I started my blog, I have been fascinated by the statistics. I can tell whenever someone visits my webpage and see which blogs they have read. I can also tell if they came to my blog through a Google search, or Facebook, or Twitter, or a host of other ways. I can also find out which country they are from. People from 29 different countries have dropped by my page in the last year. Don’t worry, though—I can’t find out names or specific locations.
One statistic stands out above the rest, though. It is the 10 to 1 ratio. For every ten people who visit my site, I’ll usually only get one person who interacts by “liking” it on Facebook or through some other tangible means (“user engagement”). This stat has been remarkably consistent. Even when I post something with high traffic volume, the ratio of user engagement is predictably 10 to 1.
What do I gather from that stat? For all you silent social media stalkers, I know you are watching. You silently scroll, withholding your reactions while forming your judgments. But I don’t mind. I’m just glad you stopped to read! And in our age of social media, we tend to forget how many people are watching us. For every reaction you get on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, nine other people may be silently looking on.
This has always been the case, even before social media. I once worked a job where I attended every intramural athletic event for a Christian college. I had a lot of time to sit and watch people, so that’s what I did. And what I noticed is that a lot of other people just sit and watch. They withold their reactions while forming their judgments.
You are being watched. And for the conscientious Christian in the social media age, this reality demands our careful attention. If we don’t balance biblical truth in this area, we may make some costly mistakes. What do I mean? Consider these twin truths:
- Jesus is your judge. Paul makes the point in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 that the all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present God will make the final assessment of my actions. People often say, “It doesn’t matter what other people think,” and in a sense that is true. We serve an audience of One. We have one Lord, one Master, Jesus Christ. However, we rarely take this principle to it’s ultimate end. As Paul says, “In fact, I do not even judge myself.” Even my own self-assessment is not enough to declare me “innocent.” And yet we are so quick to defend ourselves. Job thought he could argue his case with God, declaring his innocence. But in his haste to plead his case, he allowed his thinking to drift to the “why?” question instead of the “who?” question.
Whom do you serve? Jesus Christ. Does he ever make a mistake in his judgements? Most certainly not. And we should examine our own lives very, very carefully (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Peter 1:17). In light of God’s intimate knowledge of us, we should ask him to search us and know us (Psalm 139). How would your life change if you spent more time each day assessing your own life than you do other’s lives?
At the same time, we do not need to live in paralyzing fear of the Lord’s judgment, not if we seek to please him daily as we live by faith. While we will give an account for how we lived our lives, we are free from ultimate condemnation (Romans 8:1) and the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25)!
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
- You have a testimony. You probably have known people who seemed overly concerned with maintaining their external “testimony,” and yet their personal lives were anything but spiritual. We need to be careful. The failure of other people does not give me a license to reject the truth. Rejecting truth because of “hypocrites in the church” just serves to expose the hypocrite inside us. The fact that someone else embodies truth poorly does not excuse me from obeying the truth. In fact, it only heightens this world’s need for genuine Christians who embody the truth in both their public and private lives.
And what is the truth regarding our public testimony? Paul exhorts us, Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6). Paul can make this application because, just before, he requests prayer for his own need to speak the right way in public. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak (Colossians 4:3-4).
Ought. That is a difficult word to swallow in our post-modern culture. God makes moral demands on how I ought to live. And it’s because I’m part of something bigger than myself, I’m called to make disciples of the nations. As an ambassador for Christ, I must bodly represent my Savior well (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20).
God places this same expectation on young men in Titus 2:6-8. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Why? Because this is precisely where young men may be prone to fall (1 Timothy 4:12). Guys, we often lack self-control. But it’s not just young men who need this warning. Paul exhorts every type of Christian “to be self-controlled” in Titus because our public testimony and the Spirit-produced fruit of self-control are inextricably linked (Titus 1:8; 2:2, 5,6; 2:12).
So yes, your testimony does matter. In fact, since Jesus is your judge you can expect that part of his assessment will hinge on how well you pointed others toward Christ in this life. It is biblically inaccurate at best, and intentionally dishonest at worst, to blame other people if you cause them to stumble (Romans 14:13-19; 1 Corinthians 8:10-13). Jesus himself reserved some of his harshest judgments for people who led others to sin (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2). It is far too easy to blame other people for our own failures—just ask the mother and father of all mankind. Adam and Even passed the blame, but God pronounced his judgment on both of them. He held them both accountable (Genesis 3:12-19).
It would be good for us all to imagine thousands of pairs of eyes looking at us before we Tweet, post, dress, snap a picture, or whatever. Some of those eyes are very young and impressionable. Because that is, in fact, what is happening. You are being watched. And we have a Savior to represent.
But also know this—you can rest in peace when you have been unfairly judged and criticized. It is not the people around us who make the final assessment, but Christ. And there is no better judge to stand before than the one who bled and died that you might live (Isaiah 53;2 Corinthians 5:21).
Oh, how we need grace and faith to live well-pleasing to the Lord. Not earning his favor because of our “squeaky clean” masquerade, but by faith living out “the calling to which [we] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).