By Shawn McMullen
I watched with wonder as the little boy walked through the mall with his mother. I use the word walk loosely, as he did everything but walk at his mother’s side. He jumped and spun in mid air. He skipped and danced. He ran in circles, his hands extended like wings on a fighter plane. All the while, he sang a song (one I’m sure he made up “on the fly”) with all his might.
The little guy’s antics were captivating, but what impressed me most was that he didn’t seem to care at all whether anyone was watching. He wasn’t performing; he was simply having fun—innocent, shameless, childlike fun.
I thought to myself, It wouldn’t hurt me to be more like this kid. To give greater expression to my joy and to care less what other people think. To kick up my heels or break out into song when the mood strikes.
I probably won’t, but it was fun to think about it. I have a hard time clearing a hurdle that didn’t seem to exist in the boy’s mind: other people are watching.
The fact that other people are watching may put a damper on some of our plans, but in another way, it may be helpful to those of us who want to honor Christ in our lives and by our conduct. Knowing other people are watching helps us keep our words and actions in check. We have a God to honor. We have an example to set. It pays to be careful.
Christians should apply a similar principle to their conduct online, especially in the arena of social networking. The soaring popularity of online social media sites like Facebook and Twitter make sharing our thoughts and expressing our opinions easier than ever—and before a much wider audience.
I’ve learned it’s not always wise to articulate the first thought that comes into my head (although I’ve done it often). When it happens, I usually regret it. So I make it a point to wait—and think—before I offer an opinion or respond to a comment.
However, many of the conversations carried through cyberspace, like the little boy at the mall, tend to sidestep the “other people are watching” hurdle and race ahead with little thought to the consequences.
Since the Christian’s primary task in life is to glorify God, we can’t afford to act, speak, or write carelessly. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (4:13). And like the apostle Paul, we must take “pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man” (2 Corinthians 8:21).
God reads every word we post on Facebook. He knows what motivates every Twitter entry. Those who read our comments make judgments, too—right or wrong. They may even factor our remarks into their assessment of the Christian faith we represent.
Maybe it’s time to add a new stanza to the old children’s Sunday school song: Oh, be careful little fingers what you text!