As a professor, I often try to impart life lessons, as well as subject-specific lessons, to my students. Many times, I think these are the most important parts of my job. It’s not uncommon for me to have a “side bar” conversation that has nothing to do with marketing or management, but that I believe will make my students better employees in their future.
One topic of conversation has been an encouragement to monitor what students write (and let others write and post about them) on social networks. This is usually brought to mind when a student will send me a “friend request” and while I am happily their friend, I am concerned with what they allow to be available to the world regarding who they are. I remind them that potential employers know how to “google” someone too, and that they want to make sure that their personal “brand” online is concurrent with what they hope to project. If they don’t want potential employees to think of themselves as irresponsible partiers, its probably a good idea to remove those pictures that convey this. While it’s commonly accepted that the Internet lowers people’s inhibitions because there is the perception of anonymity, this facade is quickly shattered when people experience the very real damage that can come from a mismanaged online reputation.
Just like its important for my students to be aware of how they projecting themselves on the Internet, I think its critical that Christians do the same. The same perceived, but false, barriers that causes people to post picture of themselves partying online, often prompts Christians to unthinkingly engage in conversations about their Savior. Many times, I have seen a young person post something about their faith, receive a vicious reply back, and they reply with the same type of venom. Now, its true that they don’t deserve the harsh response, but it’s also just as true that they will probably win no one to Christ with words that don’t reflect Him. This isn’t to say that we should compromise the truths that Christ teach, (of course we should not!) but it does mean that when we engage in a discussion about the Ruler of the universe, we should do so in a way that reflects His grace and love, as well as His innate justice and truth.
It’s also important to remember that Christ’s most gentle words were reserved for nonbelievers. Again, not that He watered down His message for them, He was steadfast in His assertion that He was the only Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6) However, His most scathing words were reserved for the religious leaders who professed to portray Him and did anything but (See Matt. 3:7). Contrast the love poured out on the woman at the well (John 4:1-26), with the table-turning in the temple courts (Matt 21:12-17). To those who did not believe, He demonstrated His majesty through His grace. To those who had the truth, and acted with disregard to it, He exhibited His majesty through justice. Both were consistent with Who He is, but the anger was reserved for those who professed to know Him and yet through their actions disparaged His name.
In summary, to take off from the old Sunday School song “Be careful little fingers what you type” because the audience that you need to be concerned about is not a potential employer, but the “Father up above [who] is looking down with love.” It’s important that our responses to nonbelievers are as “shrewed as snakes, but as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) Make sure your words – whether spoken, acted upon, or submitted electronically, reflect Him.