Digital Salt and Light: Standing Up for the Truth
The world, it seems to me, is getting darker every day – crimes are escalating, injustices are rising, and morals are decaying. And the rapid advancements in computer technology have only accelerated this descent into darkness, notwithstanding all the good things they have brought us. These great digital tools that have come from the greatest minds have increased a thousandfold the opportunities and the possibilities to do good – as well as evil.
The question we are now asking is, where does the Christian fit in all this? What is the role that he or she must play in this ever darkening world? The answer to this question is good news: salt and light.
Being “salt and light” to the world is Jesus Christ’s general calling to his disciples:
You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16 WEB
And the ultimate manifestation of this calling is the numerous Christian ministries that are doing good works for society: free education, free medicine, relief goods during calamities, shelters for the homeless and abused, centers for the drug-dependents, and many others. Say what you want about the ugliness in the Church, but the importance of these ministries cannot be denied, and they deserve our gratitude and appreciation. We definitely need more of these good works in this broken and suffering world.
And Net Gener Christians, who grew up “bathed in bits” like most of the Millennial generation, are sure finding new ways to do good works, leveraging their propensity in and vast knowledge of the Internet and computer technology.
However, being salt and light involves much more than just doing good works. It also means standing up for the truth, and for what is right and good. Conversely, it also means standing up against lies, and against wrongness and evil. After all, salt is used for preservation against decay and corruption; and light is used to show people the way, to prevent them from stumbling in the dark. In other words, being salt and light involves doing things that people may not see as good at all.
Here at TukuToi we’ve been exploring what it means to be a Bible-believing Christian in this modern digital age. And while not every Christian is called to the ministry and to activism, each one is nevertheless called to be “salt and light” to the world around them: with their families, friends, co-workers, and yes, with their social media circles.
Our subject in this article are the Net Gener Christians. Being part of the first computer-savvy generation, and of the right ages to greatly influence society, they can do much to further the cause of Christ. As “digital salt and light”, their good works will be… are being felt and heard far and wide.
Speaking the Truth in Love
You might be wondering, why is it even necessary to mention standing up for the truth? Isn’t this already a given for those who claim to follow the steps of Jesus Christ?
You are right, of course, but the religion’s present state is not as good as we wish them to be. Here are a few sad and regretful things about Christianity today:
Generally speaking, most Christians are hypocrites – proclaiming themselves as “saints” by their words, but their actions lack proofs. This is not surprising though, since it is much easier to talk about how to live one’s life according to the Bible, than to actually practice it. The problem is, not many Christians are really trying to overcome their hypocrisy.
While there are doctrinal differences in the many legitimate denominations of Christianity, there are certain core beliefs that should never be compromised, like the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Unfortunately, many so-called Christians have rejected some of these core beliefs, promoting their own versions of the doctrines instead. Many do not even believe in the authority of the Bible.
Many Christians are preaching watered-down versions of biblical truths, focusing only on the “good things” that people want to hear, like the love and forgiveness of God. Meanwhile, topics such as sin, repentance, suffering, and God’s wrath and judgment – the “bad things” that people find offensive – are barely talked about, if at all. As a result, grievous sins are often overlooked, even condoned, balanced out by “good works”.
As you can see, the Church situation is very bad. Add to this mix the troubles of the world, and it can be overwhelming. Well, the good news is that solving these systemic and gigantic problems are not anyone’s responsibility. Only God has that responsibility, and only God has the power to solve them. Rather, what every Christian is called to do is simply to be that agent of preservation and light in their own circles of influence – unless, of course, you are specifically called by God to do more.
Here is what the Bible has to say about speaking the truth and living uprightly:
Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak truth each one with his neighbor…. “Be angry, and don’t sin.” Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath…. Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, producing with his hands something that is good…. Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for building others up as the need may be…. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:25-26,28-29,31-32 WEB, emphasis mine
And if you are thinking that God is only all about love and forgiveness, and doesn’t really take seriously your sins and their consequences, here is what the Bible has to say about the righteous man, the kind of man God approves of:
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right, and speaks truth in his heart; he who doesn’t slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his friend, nor casts slurs against his fellow man; in whose eyes a vile man is despised, but who honors those who fear Yahweh…. – Psalm 15:2-4 WEB, emphasis mine
From these verses we can find this very important principle, and it will be our guide: Christians must speak the truth, and avoid falsehood. However, they must do so in love, not arrogance, and their words must be supported by their own righteous and faithful living. That is, self-righteousness and hypocrisy are not allowed.
Because being salt and light is just that: being, not just talking.
Having then established our principle, here are some practical advise for us Net Gener Christians as we make our stand for the truth, and for what is right and good, in the cyberspace:
The first thing to remember is that the “evangelism situation” today is far different from what it was 2,000 years ago. Nowadays, people are already well exposed to Christianity and its teachings, and well aware also of other religions, and many have already chosen what to believe. Contrary to what your local church might have been teaching you, we are not really here to “convert pagans” like it was with the Apostle Paul. Rather, we are here to show people – in our blog and Facebook posts, in our YouTube videos, in our day-to-day interactions with them on the Internet – that Christianity still matters, despite its bloody history and its many failings.
Secondly, do not argue for argument’s sake. And avoid theological debates as much as possible. Don’t encourage such comments in your blog, if you have one. Chances are, your opponents would know much more about Christianity than you do, and are only seeking to destroy the faith that you do have. Leave such things to the apologists. For now, simply know that there are theological differences that will never be resolved (theology, after all, is only our own human attempt to understand God). Right now the most important thing is to focus on living out your beliefs – to show people that you really are following Jesus, as you claim to be.
Thirdly, if you must speak out against someone, say, an abusive pastor or a corrupt politician, do so in a decent manner. Avoid cursing them or insulting them in your article, video, or podcast. Always be a responsible journalist, and don’t abuse your right to free speech. You don’t have to compromise your stand to be able to speak with decency. Most of all, get your facts straight. Gather evidences. Make your case using God’s Word if you need to. Tell only the truth. Do not slander. If you are not sure about something that you suspect, then it is better to keep quite about it.
Lastly, do not speak out at all if your only intention is to destroy other people’s beliefs, even if you think that they are wrong. Such kind of talk is damaging to the soul, and is not an act of love, but of pride. Do not mistake zeal for God with arrogance; you just don’t have the right to force on other people what to believe. Freedom of religion is an inalienable human right, guaranteed to everyone. And it is a right that you also enjoy, and so respect it. Remember what Paul said?
If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. – I Corinthians 13:1-2 WEB
Paying the Costs of Truth
Although suffering can be the result of our sins, genuine Christianity always involve suffering, whether deserved or not. For one thing, it is a way to holiness – there can be no real growth without pain and struggle. For another, it is simply part of the costs that we pay for speaking the truth, and for being identified as followers of Christ. Jesus said these things best.
When talking to his own unbelieving brothers, he said, “The world can’t hate you, but it hates me, because I testify about it, that its works are evil” (John 7:7 WEB).
And when talking to his own disciples, he said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 WEB).
So here now is the challenge: As Net Gener Christians, will we stand up for the truth – and not only in cyberspace, but also in other areas of our lives – knowing that it will most likely cost us dearly? If we do this, we might be shunned by our families and friends. We might also lose some career opportunities, and might even be fired from our jobs. Worse, we might even suffer from direct persecutions. Physical assaults and death threats are common to those who take the gospel into the streets.
The fact is, even if all we do is being that salt and light – speaking the truth in love, but the hurtful truth nonetheless – the world’s hatred will still fall upon us. And more terrible will be the attacks on us by other Christians, when we expose their sins and wrongdoings.
As followers of Christ, we are often very quick to say that we only seek God’s approval in everything we do – and that what other people say don’t matter at all. However, when we are put to the test – by being bullied in social media, for example, because of our beliefs – we are also very quick to fall away.
The great irony is, all these technological advances that empower us to preach the gospel and to stand up for the truth in ways unheard of before, also make compromising that much easier. Internet access to the whole world is at our fingertips, and its responses to the things we say and do, good or bad, are nearly instantaneous. The pressure to conform to other people’s demands has never been this high.
And why do we compromise? Why do we sell out our beliefs? It’s because we have already forgotten the one we ought to worship. We have replaced God with the numerous idols that have sprung up because of computer technology.
Are you a webmaster? An online publisher? Perhaps the Google Search Engine has already become your god, and you follow its every whim just to get higher rankings in search results? Do you ever publish articles that are not based on popular keywords – articles that are not “optimized” for the masses, but contain in-depth discussions about life? And does seeing your sites’ traffic stats gives you more joy and contentment than prayer ever does?
Are you a blogger? A social-media influencer? Perhaps the number of your followers, and the number of likes that you are getting are all that matter to you? Do you ever talk about sin and repentance, about suffering and holiness, and about the wrath and judgment of God? Or do you only talk about the things your followers want to hear – like how much God loves them and wants to bless them – because you don’t want to offend them and lose their support, and be accused of intolerance and bigotry?
The worst of these idols is social media, and it is very much like the vengeful gods of old. Like Baal, or Moloch. For how many times have we heard in the news, how the approval (or disapproval) of the “Netizens” has determined a person’s worth and dignity? Like the followers of those old gods, these social-media mobs act as if they really have the authority to “cancel” and to destroy people’s lives.
The bottom line is, standing up for the truth, and for what is right and good, costs much. It requires courage, a proper perspective on life (there is much more than just this earthly existence), and a deep love for God. And if you are really a disciple of Jesus, then you have no choice but to fulfill what our Lord has asked of you: to do good works, stand up for the truth, and pay the costs.
Rewards of Faithfulness
The world, it seems to me, is getting darker every day – crimes are escalating, injustices are rising, and morals are decaying. But I’m not without hope, and as a Net Gener Christian, I’m doing my part to preserve and to light the world around me. Digital salt and light – that is what I am.
The way is hard, yes. Standing up for the truth, and for what is right and good, costs. But I’m not without hope, because my God is faithful. He will help me overcome, and my own faithfulness will be rewarded someday. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble; but cheer up! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 WEB).
And about my vindication for the things I’ve done and I’m doing, I’m sure of that too. The psalmist said, “Commit your way to Yahweh. Trust also in him, and he will do this: he will make your righteousness shine out like light, and your justice as the noon day sun” (Psalm 37:5-6 WEB).