Would Jesus Like Your Post On Social Media?

Written By Michelle Lai, Singapore

If God were on social media, would He like your post?

I used to take to Instagram daily. I would post a picture with a caption telling my followers what I felt at the moment. I would post sad reflections, happy anecdotes, and even angry rants. It was my way of expressing myself and dealing with boredom and loneliness. I could “talk” to my followers without actually engaging in a conversation or meeting up with anyone.

However, I learned the hard way that even though we have the right to express ourselves freely, we should also be responsible for the thoughts that we express and upload on a public platform.

I’ve since learned how to navigate social media in a healthy way, and here are three questions I often ask myself:

 

1. Will my post benefit my friends?

I like to listen to sad ballads, and would often post sad lyrics that may or may not mean anything personal. Because of the emotional nature of my posts, my friends often asked me if I was okay. But I didn’t want to explain things; I just wanted the responses. Ideally, friends asked if I was okay, but often I received uninvited comments on my life and activities instead. Also, close friends were sometimes the last to find out when something happened in my life, since distant acquaintances saw it first on Instagram.

All this led to me feeling very vulnerable and exposed to the world. It is a funny dilemma, feeling relieved yet empty if people do not respond to my posts, but feeling overwhelmed if they do.

I was not glorifying God with the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart (Psalm 19:14). Not only did my social media habits cause problems between me and my friends, they also caused me to become consumed by things such as seeking approval, explaining myself, and chasing after the instant gratification of expressing my highs and lows without much thought.

Whereas I once treated social media like a scrapbook or diary, I now treat it as a tool to connect with my closest friends. For example, I would post Christian poems to encourage my friends, or share recent milestones to celebrate with friends and offer encouragement. I also try to minimize posting about my daily life, and only post pictures with my loved ones. I remind myself not to linger on social media after I post, so that I would not feed on “likes” by my friends. When I see something interesting my friends shared on social media, such as photos from their recent travels, I try to meet up with them in person and ask them more about what they posted.

 

2. Have I taken time to process what I want to post?

Nowadays, I do not write a post whenever I feel like it. Instead, I give myself some time to think over whether the post is necessary, whether it is kind, and whether it draws attention to myself in a self-indulgent way.

I am learning that talking to someone about my feelings—instead of ranting on social media—gives me the privacy to keep the issue personal and professional in certain situations. When I share my struggles with friends or mentors, I can often gain other perspectives. This allows me time to process my thoughts. I realize that, often, when I give myself time to sit on a feeling or nagging thought, it passes and no longer becomes a nagging issue. Like “emotional eating,” many times I need to be careful of “emotional posting.”

 

3. Am I glorifying God or causing others to stumble?

I once worked with a group of classmates on a school project together. When I had a disagreement with one of them, I posted a picture of a steam engine with an angry caption in our group chat. It affected the morale of the entire group.

While social media is for sharing more than just happy things, as a follower of Christ I should not post anything that might cause others to stumble. I should definitely not take to social media and rant without considering how my words will affect others.

The psalmists in the Bible were not afraid to write sad and angry psalms, but ultimately, they always brought the focus back to God. While I do not think we should refrain from posting about issues like depression, or even sharing that we are tired or sad on a particular day, I am learning from the psalmists that my posts should always point others back to God. For example, when I write poems about depression, I bring God into the picture. I also include a link to an emotional support hotline for anyone who might want to seek professional help. I make sure I end my poems in hope.

 

While it hasn’t been easy to readjust my social media habits, I’m learning that we are called to love people around us, and guarding what comes out of our mouths (or fingers) is a good place to start.

Tired of Bad News? You’re Not Alone

“Where is the evidence of your love?”

His words pierced my heart.

“Where is your love for the broken, for those who face injustice?”

I felt offended and hurt by my friend’s quick and harsh reproach, and wanted to remonstrate in my self-righteousness. But my breath caught in my throat, because deep down, a part of me knew that he was right. Where was the evidence of the love of God I proclaimed to identify with and embody?

To be sure, I love those around me who are easy to love, like my family, friends, and fellow believers, and I make effort to pray for and reach out to those around me who are going through difficult times.

But how about those whom I have no particular reason to love—like strangers living halfway across the world?

The conversation with my close friend forced me to examine my life with a clear and sober eye, and to ask myself, “What have I been doing?” More specifically, what have I been doing, in the face of crises around the world—the suffering, persecution, and injustice faced by hundreds of thousands of millions of people?

Nothing. Not only was I not doing anything, I didn’t want to know anything.

As a journalist constantly tuned in to the goings-on in my home country Singapore, I’d become desensitized to bad news. I felt drained of any emotional or spiritual capacity to care about all the daily happenings on our island, let alone the sheer magnitude of catastrophes around the world. I was indifferent and helpless to what was beyond my control.

When my father told me about a church bombing in Surabaya, Indonesia, which killed 15 churchgoers on 13 May, I felt a pang of shock and sadness. Yet my prayer for those devastated by the attack went unfinished in my head, as my attention turned to something else more immediate.

And when I visited Perth, Australia, for a holiday at the same time US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shook hands in Singapore on 13 June, not once did I glance at a screen to find out how the summit went—even though this could potentially be a monumental first step for millions of North Koreans living in both spiritual and material poverty. Even the miraculous Thai cave rescue in July came across as a mere feel-good read, as I barely batted an eyelid throughout the dramatic search and rescue operations spread out across those few days.

With enough happening on our own shores, the refugee crises and political corruption, the terrorist attacks and bombings, the nuclear threats and natural disasters, fellow Christians being persecuted and afflicted for their faith, the inexhaustible list of small-scale injustices to migrants, single mothers, orphans, the poor, the environment—everything just became just too much for me.

I had slowly and subconsciously retreated into my oyster, hardening my heart to the hurts of this world. After all, I justified, there’s only so much I could feel and do with my limited time and resources—especially when world crises are so conveniently distilled into distant images and headlines on a screen as I sit safely ensconced in comfort.

Yet that isn’t the kind of attitude Jesus had, neither is it the kind of disposition we are to have as His followers and as recipients of His salvation. Instead, he wants us to serve the “least important” who are often overlooked by society: by meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, such as by feeding and clothing the poor, and by caring for and lending a listening ear to the marginalized and forgotten (Matthew 25:34-40).

Even though God clearly calls us to love and serve others—and I’m reminded of this time and time again through His Word—I often have difficulty obeying. Yet James warns us of the danger of being mere listeners who forget His Word, thereby deceiving ourselves; and whose faith, when not embodied in deeds and acts of service, is actually dead. And this frightens me: that my self-imposed ignorance and uncaring disposition is a sign of my self-deception and dead faith.

***

As I was listening to Hillsong’s “What a Beautiful Name” on YouTube, a comment caught my eye. A man had commented, asking for us to pray for Christians in Egypt.

“We are going through difficult times, yet it is times of blessing. Pray for the weak of souls; pray for those who lost a son, father, mother or wife just because they are Christians,” he wrote.

“How lucky we are to taste some of the Christ’s sufferings for our sake. The Lord bless you all.”

I was chastened—but this time, it was by a man living halfway across the globe—a nameless, faceless man undergoing persecution for his faith, yet who was declaring the beauty of the name of Jesus, and standing firm in prayer and praise unto Him, who alone knows every name and face of His chosen ones.

His testimony stirred something within me, and spoke to me of what it really meant to be a part of the body of Christ, as His united people and church, commanded by our Lord and Savior to love and serve others with both our hearts and hands. And this prompted me to reflect on how we ought to respond when faced with crises in the world.

 

Acknowledge

The simplest yet often most overlooked action is to acknowledge that God is powerful, omniscient, and unlimited by all human constraints and constructs. God doesn’t call us to lay the weight of the world on our shoulders, He calls us to acknowledge and surrender it to Him.

That’s what all the holy men and women of God—the kings and prophets, the weak and afflicted—did in the Bible, and what His people throughout the generations have been doing: acknowledging the sovereignty and power of God, and surrendering our helplessness to Him. Doing so reminds us that though the multitude of world crises we face seems unsolvable and unending, they are under His control, within His will, and ultimately for His purposes.

 

Pray

Ask God to break your heart for what breaks His, so that you would care for what He cares about: the oppressed, the unwanted, the vulnerable (Isaiah 1:17). This commandment to care about crises is essentially distilled in the royal law that we love one another, be it those within His church or outside of it (James 2:8).

For this reason, we ought to pray that God would shape our hearts to love as He loves, and to save those in need and  deliver them from harm. Not only that, we are also to pray for His leaders and shepherds who oversee and care for His flock, and for the persecutors themselves. After all, if we trust that God hears and answers us when we pray for our own needs, would He not also take heed of our prayers for others?

As John Calvin once said:

Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellow men that we feel their need as acutely as our own. To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.

One simple way to start is by praying for a headline crisis that appears on your newsfeed or newspaper. International Christian Concern also publishes articles about the various happenings and needs of fellow brothers and sisters across the world.

 

Do

Support those who are actively involved in the work of solving these crises and helping the needy, whether through prayers and supplications, raising awareness of such issues, helping with funding and donations, or volunteering in a suitable capacity. As Paul wrote in Galatians 6:10, we are to do good to everyone as we have the opportunity to do so, especially our fellow brethren. And this means acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8).

I’m still learning to do just that—starting with aligning my will with the Lord’s, by praying for those beyond my immediate social circle, attending my church’s monthly prayer gathering, and committing to the Lord people and situations beyond my control.

 

As we learn to acknowledge our limitations and God’s omnipotence, as we make the intentional choice to pray for His will, healing, and salvation over this world, and as we do what we can with what we have, I pray that God would open our eyes to see how He is without rival or equal in this world, and that we would fall in worship before Him, in spirit, truth and deed.

Why I Reach Out To Prostitutes and the Marginalized

Written By Eunice Lin, Singapore

I was trained as a social worker and worked for seven years in a government agency. I loved that my job entailed advocating for change at a systemic level and thrived at work. It also enabled me to live out my faith intentionally, which shaped the ways I interacted and worked with those around me.

But at a deeper level, I was increasingly dissatisfied. I felt far too removed from the voiceless and powerless whom I really wanted to serve.

Eventually, God challenged me to leave what had become too comfortable a job. As I stepped out in faith, He gave me two burdens: to love the Church, and to pursue mercy and justice. Since my church had no mercy and justice ministry, I assumed that I would have to explore that aspect outside my church. And so I did.

Through a friend, I was introduced to a ministry that reaches out to offer help, healing, and hope to prostitutes in Geylang, Singapore’s red-light district. Since then, God has been showing me what His expression of mercy and justice looks like—and doesn’t look like.

 

It is not self-righteous

The moment I met with the co-founders of this ministry and heard their vision and burden for the work, I knew this was where I wanted to serve.

Whenever I spent time at this ministry, I was blown away. I would hear about something miraculous God had done in the lives of the women. I would see how God brought people from different churches, backgrounds, and expertise to pour themselves into meeting the needs (often unspoken and not yet made known!) of the women and the ministry. It felt like I was living in the Gospels and Acts as I saw Jesus’ modern-day followers healing and setting the ladies free from their bondage, and generously sharing what they had with those in need!

I was excited, energized, and eager to be a part of this work. After all, this was where the action was. But God had some major re-working to do in my heart, starting with how unknowingly self-righteous I was.

I vividly remember my first prayer walk in Geylang. I was extremely put off by the men on the streets and how they looked at every female—those of us reaching out to the prostitutes and the prostitutes alike. I thought to myself, “These men are such scum. They’re the reason these women are being sold on the streets.”

As soon as that thought formed, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and it felt like a punch in my stomach. What right did I have to despise these men as filthy and deplorable? God opened my eyes to see that I’ve been saved by grace alone, and the only difference between me and them is that Christ’s blood covers me—and that same blood was also shed for them too. It hit me that God loves them as much as He loves me.

God had to first (and continually) refine me and break me that I might be used in His hands for His work. I could not do justice without loving-kindness and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8). This justice God wanted me to learn to pursue was one that is grace-fueled, not done out of self-righteousness.

 

It is unconditional

Some time later, there was a request to purchase something for one of the former prostitutes whom we had been journeying with. To me, the item requested was definitely not a necessity. In fact, I even felt that it would be irresponsible to purchase this item for her because it would not require her to make the least effort to change.

Yet, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to give her the money.

I balked at that thought and immediately came up with more reasons why I would not, and why no one else should have to either. But He impressed on me that I had just made that sum of money today only because of a job opening He gave me—and now He wanted me to give it away.

I conceded that I would give the money away, but only for something worthier. Until I was struck by this: “The Father gave you His Son while you were unworthy. Imagine if He were as conditional as you.”

I was convicted that God was calling for this act of kindness and generosity not because the person was worthy, but because the One who calls me is. The unspeakable mercy I have received is the same mercy I am to show others. He calls us to show radical generosity, mercy, and loving-kindness as the outworking of our faith, as our response of love and obedience to a God who first loved us.

 

 

It is simple

After some years of serving in Geylang, God began to deal with another area of my heart—that I was far more drawn to doing what is novel and “out there,” rather than what was right in front of me. I had resisted serving in my church’s local outreach ministry because it just didn’t excite me. It was too. . . mundane.

After all, we had been in this neighborhood for the past 20 years, and the local outreach ministry had never been a fraction as exciting as what was happening in Geylang. But these questions dropped in my heart, “Who around you remains overlooked and has yet to experience the gospel? Who is the neighbor God wants you to love? Are you willing to return and serve your church with all that you’ve learned?”

And so, I yielded to His prompting to love my neighbors and lead my church’s local outreach ministry. In this new season as I encourage our church to partner our church’s non-profit agency to seek the flourishing of those in our neighborhood, God is showing me how faithful, consistent presence is needed for the long haul. And I have had much to learn in being patient and humble as I rallied and equipped my church to respond and rely on Him to lead the way.

God moved in the hearts of the church leaders to open up our church to those beyond our walls. I challenged them that we would have to open our lives to our neighbors too. And so they did. We began throwing Community Dinners where we invite families served by our church’s non-profit agency to come share a meal with us. These include the working poor, lonely seniors, isolated foreigners, people of different backgrounds and beliefs from us, and those with health or mental health issues.

When we started 15 months ago, no one was sure if these families would come and stick around. Today, we have about 100 people from the church and our neighborhood fill up our fellowship hall with chatter, laughter, music, warm lights, and food at every dinner. Many shared that while they have walked past our church countless times, they had never stepped in prior to these dinners. Some said they never knew they could, others felt it was not their place, and others simply did not want to have anything to do with Christians.

As we made every effort to reach out and build bridges with our neighbors over the dining table, our friends from the community opened up their hearts and let us into their lives, often humbling us with the trust they accord us. We have found ourselves astounded by the hardships and injustice they have endured over the course of their lives. Yet, they do not come back week after week because they want us to fix their problems. Instead, they simply come to where they know they are heard, loved, and accepted. I also believe they keep coming back because they see a hope, joy, peace and something in us that they do not have, but are drawn to.

I’m learning that God can use something as simple as sharing a meal to draw the lost to Himself. Nothing fancy or novel. Instead, we find ourselves going back to an ancient practice Jesus used with His disciples, a practice that the Church Fathers developed to reach and disciple believers across the ancient world—sharing the gospel over a meal.

God—who calls us and has prepared in advance the good works we are to do—is so committed to our perfection in Christ that He will refine us. He reveals our self-righteousness, pride, and all that stands in opposition to who God is. Doing justice, loving-kindness and walking humbly with God is an inward discipleship process that makes me more like Jesus and helps me live and love as He does. Thankfully, all things (including living out Micah 6:8) are from Him, through Him, and to His glory.

3 Things I Learned From the Homeless

“Keep an eye out for watermelon boxes. They’re the thickest ones out there,” Fridge instructed as we headed for that night’s cardboard run.

It was only my second night sleeping on the streets, but I already knew exactly what Fridge—one of our guides for the weekend who has spent many years homeless—was talking about.

It was raining that late winter’s night in Melbourne, Australia and the temperature was expected to drop close to freezing. A thick piece of cardboard from a watermelon box would provide that extra few centimeters of distance from the cold, wet concrete sidewalk that I would try to sleep on as city trains, traffic, street lights, and noisy pedestrians did their best to keep me awake.

 

Waking up sore and tired, the way many rough sleepers have to do on a regular basis.

 

When I got the email a few weeks earlier inviting my wife and I to join a group becoming rough sleepers* for a weekend, I instantly felt nervous. I knew my wife would jump at the opportunity, since helping the disadvantaged and marginalized in society has a special place in her heart. But to be honest, I was a little scared.

We had both recently started leading a team from an organization called Many Rooms that provide meals and other services to the homeless and disadvantaged of Melbourne. Even though I was hesitant to give up the comforts of my home to sleep rough for two nights, I knew that the experience would give me a glimpse into what the homeless of my city and around the world face every day.

And so my wife and I joined a group of eight people associated with Many Rooms who would meet up with three men from Melbourne Rough Sleepers (MRS): Fridge, PJ, and John. These men have lived or still live as rough sleepers themselves, and they would act as our guides throughout the weekend.

 

Our first night rough sleeping. We would not get much sleep that cold, windy night.

 

Little did I know that the experience would be one that not only changed my perspective about the homeless community, but also made me realize things about myself that I had never known. Here are three lessons I learned that weekend:

 

1. Be Wary of Stereotypes

Whether consciously or subconsciously, we tend to generalize any group of society that we are not familiar with. When I started the weekend on the street, I realized that I had done the same with rough sleepers. The stereotype of those who are homeless being drunks, drug addicts, mentally ill, or just plain lazy, was not the reality of many that we met.

Instead, we heard stories of rough sleepers fleeing domestic violence, and learned that the best place for them to hide was sleeping on the street. Another common story was of middle-aged men caught up in messy divorces who would lose their houses and their savings on legal fees trying to get their kids back. One person we met had grown up in foster homes his entire childhood and ran away at 16 to literally join the circus. Eventually, he found his way to the street and has been a part of the community ever since. Another memorable person we talked to said he had “concrete in his blood” due to the decades living on the street. He shared about the anger and violence issues he has dealt with stemming from his childhood when he was sexually abused.

I learned that everyone has a unique story and is dealing with their own issues. It is so important that we do not let our pre-conceived notions about a group in society prevent us from seeing others as God sees them—as people created in His image and loved by Him. The experience also made me reflect on what other hidden or subconscious stereotypes I have and how that may be preventing me from serving and loving others in society as Jesus would want me to.

As I reflected on the weekend, I kept going back to Genesis 1:27—the assurance that God created all of us in His image. May we look at all of our fellow human beings in the same light, regardless of the stereotypes we may have.

 

2. The Gift of Time and Respect

One of the toughest moments of the weekend started with a challenge given by our guides: to ask people for a dollar coin or a cigarette. Two successes were required for you to “pass” the challenge.

Being asked for spare change from people on the street is not an uncommon experience for many who live in a city. But being on “the other side” was an eye-opening experience. I suddenly became aware of how I appeared (and probably how I smelled) after a couple days on the street. I would search the faces of pedestrians passing by, wondering who would be the kind soul that would say yes to a stranger asking for money.

As I did so, I realized it wasn’t the rejections to my pleas that hurt the most. It was the shake of a head without even a word to acknowledge my existence. It was the quickening of their steps to walk away from me after they had said no. It was the way they paid more attention to their phone than they did to me.

On the flip side, when people said yes, it wasn’t the coin or cigarette that meant the most. It was the acknowledgement of me as a person and the time they took to help out a fellow human being.

While talking with other rough sleepers and trying to discern how I could serve them better in my role with Many Rooms, the common theme that came up was their desire to be respected and treated as any other person.

When I asked what were some ways people could show respect for them, the answer was time. Time going out of your way to share a meal with them. Time acknowledging them as human beings who are in a tough spot right now. Time spent sitting down and chatting about stuff, even if it’s about your favorite sports teams or debating the relevance of Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars.

Time and respect. Just like we all want.

This practice can also be applied to other aspects of our lives. Taking the time to chat with that elderly person even though we’re in a rush. Taking the time to patiently counsel a friend in need, even though we’d rather be bundled up on the couch watching Netflix. Taking the time to really learn about the needs and concerns of family members so we can serve and help them in a way that points them to the light of Jesus inside of us.

 

3. The Power of Light Over Darkness

When searching for a place to sleep each night, there were a few criteria that we were looking out for. One of the key ones was whether the area was well lit. We learned that there was less chances of danger in the light. And because of that, you could sleep with a bit more ease in the light.

At one point during the weekend, PJ, one of our guides, shared with me his favorite verse: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

“I’ve been through a lot of low points in my life, a lot of dark times,” PJ shared. “This verse helped me a lot during those times. To head towards the light even in the darkness.”

During that weekend, I heard many stories of those who have lived through dark times. And just like every human on earth, there is a light that we are searching for, that we all need. My prayer is that just as we strive to fill the physical and practical needs of the homeless in our cities, that they would also come to know the light that shines in the darkness. And that no matter how dark their pasts have been or how low they feel right now, the darkness will not overcome the light we find in Jesus. Because even in the darkest of times when there seems to be no way out, Jesus has promised us that He will be there, that He came to “seek and to save the lost.”

 

*A more friendly term for those who are homeless and sleeping on the street.

 

The last day of our weekend experience. Despite being tired, dirty and cold, we grew close as a team with our shared experiences.