Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. —Ralph Waldo Emerson.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.—2 Timothy 4:4–5, ESV
There is a definite shift in today’s society that is echoed loudest in the ‘social’ media platforms that is clearly stated here in Second Timothy. Another translation of these verses as “following teachers of their own opinions” or joining in bands of like-minded individuals and eschewing differences of opinion or ‘unpopular’ facts. The recent memory of the Arab Spring, the Ukrainian unrest and, most notable for North Americans, the Presidential election of 2016, all have had profound strains of what is now referred to as “fake news.” The ability to reach broad audiences through social media platforms and weaponized them for one entity or another has come to the forefront of our news cycles and political party talking points.1
Shifting from a society of open flowing ideas between diverse groups into one that is notably marked by sectionalism, nationalism, or tribalism, has come at a cost. The high cost that a vast section of society has paid has been their basic decency. Conversations between family, friends, and dear friends can become a landmine field of triggering content that quickly devolves into ad hominem attacks. What a better way for Satan to divide than to let who we voted for or what opinion we hold on a minor topic separate us from the body of Christ.
It becomes increasingly difficult to have debates about critical issues of biblical evidence, beliefs, or interpretations of scripture when there appears to be shifting sands on what constitutes truth. “When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth…. Men will arise with interpretations of Scripture which are to them truth, but which are not truth. The truth for this time, God has given us as a foundation for our faith.”2
The foundation of our faith must continue to be a trust in God’s word, the truth that Jesus Christ’s substitutionary atonement is sufficient for all, and that it is our duty and charge to take this message to the world. The Great Commission commands us to spread this gospel message to every tribe, kindred, tongue, and people, something we cannot do if we are beholden to lies and suspicions about our brothers and sisters.
As the availability of more “knowledge has increased,” the ability of lies and rumors to be spread has increased as well.3 The work that individuals must put into researching and finding out truth amongst all the garbage has also increased because of the ability of individuals to create content and share that content, true or not, on social media.4 Research from Notre Dame Professor Tim Weninger initially shows that on one website, less than one tenth of one percent control what is seen by the majority of users.5
The responsibility of Seventh-day Adventists today must be to spread truth, shun lies, and to encourage each other in a Christ-like manner. God is not afraid of our questions and has promised to give wisdom liberally to all who ask of Him. So why shouldn’t we study scripture, pray for the outpouring of God’s spirit, and humble ourselves to listen as to learn instead of to respond. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”6
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart…. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.7
May we all strive to be like Jesus and run the race with endurance, lifting each other up, and pulling out any bitter roots in our own lives that will cause trouble or strife. There will be more times of trouble ahead, but we must dive deeper into the life changing power of Jesus daily as to be more like Him to a world that needs goodness and mercy evermore.
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”8
Notes & References:
1. D. Patrikarakos, War in 140 characters: How social media is reshaping conflict in the twenty-first century (New York: Basic Books, 2017).
2. White, Ellen G. (1905). Selected Messages Vol. 1, 161.1.
3. Revelation 22:10, Daniel 12:4.
4. Weninger, Tim. "Changing the Hive Mind – How Social Media Manipulation Affects Everything by Tim Weninger." An Experimental Publishing Technology News Aggregator. December 22, 2017. Accessed May 24, 2018. https://pubtechgator.bmj.com/2017/12/changing-the-hive-mind-how-social-m....
6. Colossians 3:12.
7. Hebrews 12:1–3, 14–15.