Most know the major commandments of social media, even if they often go unspoken.
For example, “Don’t feed the trolls” is one of the oldest. Yet, despite it being so well known, people frequently find themselves drawn down into the mud by those who have nothing but the worst intentions.
But as bad as antagonizing trolls can be, an even more important and ancient social media command is ignored on a regular basis.
Not only did this rule start before AOL was handing out free dial-up minutes, it was established even before the printing press. But this commandment is perhaps more applicable today on social media than any other.
In Romans 14:1, Paul tells the believers in Rome, “Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about disputed matters.”
Don’t argue about disputed matters. If you’ve spent any time on social media, you know that’s basically all it has become, including and especially Christian social media.
Notice how Paul frames this rule. He didn’t say don’t discuss disputed matters. And he didn’t say don’t argue over vital matters.
Specifically, the command is not to argue over doubtful issues. We are not to get emotionally wrapped up in arguments over third tier (or lower) issues. Yet, so many Christians are consumed by this very thing.
What happens when we violate this rule for life and social media? Several of the points Paul makes following this verse in Romans 14 gives us an indication of what it would be like.
1. It violates Christian liberty — Some believers in Rome honored one day as holy, others wanted to affirm the reality of every day belonging to God. Paul tells them to do whatever they want in those debatable areas, but to do so for the glory of God.
There is liberty within the limits of the faith. On those doubtful issues, you can have freedom. But whatever you do (and here’s the limit), it must be able to be done for the glory of God.
2. It diminishes the Lordship of Jesus — Paul pulls no punches in Romans 14:4. He asks, “Who are you to judge another’s household servant?” When we elevate smaller issues and use it to divide fellow Christians, we place ourself in the throne of Christ.
We are not to criticize “another household’s slave.” It’s not my responsibility to blast every person on Twitter who disagrees with me about a third tier faith issue. They don’t belong to me.
3. It assumes the role of the Holy Spirit — Later in the chapter, Paul tells us that our faith is not about eating and drinking, “but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Those who serve Christ this way are “acceptable to God.”
Leave disputed matters to the Holy Spirit. He can work those things out with the individual if they are in error and will be much more convincing than your Facebook comment rant.
4. It robs God of His place as judge — We will all give an account before God. Paul wanted to remind the Romans (and us) who the ultimate authority is.
When the social media critic decides he or she must relentless go after all who disagree with their preferred position on a non-essential issue, they are, in essence, telling God that His judgment is not good enough or fast enough.
Since the beginning of our faith, according to Paul’s letter to the Romans, we have struggled with pointless arguments over items that aren’t deserving of such status.
Social media has brought with it many positives, but it has also granted us new venues where we can sin in old ways.
Think through the ways in which you use your social media accounts and make sure you aren’t breaking this centuries-old command.
Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends. He is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared at numerous sites, including The Washington Post, World Magazine, and Think Christian.