Hashtags Matter by Scott Wright
The society in which we live and operate is obsessed with the idea of hashtags. Hashtags are descriptive, instructive, and (can be) inspirational. The words that are typically chosen to serve beside the ‘#’ are picked to grab attention, describe what is shown, or make the information easier to find. Social media is overrun with the concept as most great and inspirational quotes are ended with some type of hashtag to try and elicit a reaction, response, or cause a revolution. The church and the spiritually-connected have attempted to plug in to this phenomena with hashtags that are intended to redirect the focus back to God and His word. What words could be attached to you that would grab attention, describe what is shown, or make you easier to recognize?
Main idea for this lesson is: Are there descriptors of our lives (a.k.a. hashtags) that could change the course of our eternal destination? That could change the course of others’ eternal destination?
Let’s look together at three areas where we should be aiming to change the conversation:
In Ephesians 4:29-32, Paul explains the type of conversation that should be coming from those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. This reaches across into our social media presence as well (or it should). Therefore, are we careful that no corrupting talk is coming out of our social media? Are we seeking to build up and give grace? Do we speak with bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice? These types of speech should not be found among the people of God, rather we should be seeking to show compassion towards one another, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave us.
At least once in the Old Testament and at least once in the New Testament, there are specific warnings given to those who surround themselves with those who are not pursuing the truth and pursuing righteousness. Proverbs 13:20 – “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” Are we making certain to surround ourselves with those who are striving towards the same goal? Heaven is our goal and the desire must be to arrive there bringing as many people with us as possible.
The direction one is headed is the determining factor of their attractiveness. Someone who is traveling away from God and His word is definitively less attractive than one who is consistently walking and striving to grow closer to God. Matthew 7:13-14 warns us that we are not choosing the easiest path or the path chosen by the majority, but the path we are choosing leads to life. Ephesians 2:19-22 is a perfect reminder of the value in following through on our decision to choose Jesus. We are known by God, valued by God, and built into a dwelling place for God when we consistently move in His direction.
Shared With Celebrities
The world of social media and society itself are largely influenced and somewhat run by celebrities and those who promote themselves above anything else. Paul was someone who dealt with the “celebrities” of his day in a way that inspires (or should inspire) us to respond the same way today. In Acts 25 and 26, Paul is face to face with those who thought so highly of themselves that they did not go anywhere without “…great pomp…military tribunes and the prominent men of the city.” (Acts 25:23). In dealing with Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice, Paul explained directly that his only concern was in pleasing God. In Galatians 1:10, Paul perhaps sums up the mentality that we should carry into a world shaped and molded by “celebrities” and their opinions: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Shared With Criticizers
There are always going to be those who try and pick apart and pull apart the choices and beliefs we share as Christians. Regardless of their intentional and constant attempts at destroying your faith foundation, the only devastation would be in giving up. Peter spoke of those who constantly try and trouble those who are striving to do what is right. “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:13-17) Therefore, if we are to share space (and we must) with those who openly criticize, then let us strive to be those who deal with them with gentleness and respect while maintaining a good conscience and our good example.
Shared With Christians
The hope is that we have surrounded ourselves with fellow believers and that we are moving in a spiritually-upright direction, and therefore, we can impact the world in a substantial way. Paul spoke of the need for light in a world gone dim when he wrote in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” In 1 Timothy 4:12-16, Paul encourages Timothy to stop allowing excuses to deflate your desire to lead and build up. In the places where our lives intersect with other Christians (specifically the social media/social influence part), may we strive together to inhabit those places with a spiritual mindset.
One way to shift the attention from the world’s hashtags to something more positive is to use that platform to draw focus to God’s Word. In numerous places, like John 17:17, Romans 10:17, Romans 1:16, and 1 Peter 1:22-25 (to name a few), we are reminded of the power of scripture and how it can change every single person who reads it if they will allow their hearts to be in tune with what God is saying. One example of this influence comes from the sports world… In 2009, Tim Tebow was playing in the national championship game as a member of the Florida Gators. On his eyeblack strips that night, he wrote “John 3:16” as a way of expressing his faith. The next morning, Tim was . informed that 94 million independent searches were done on John 3:16 overnight. Fast-forward three years. Tebow is a Denver Bronco playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs. After the Broncos won, he headed into the post-game press conference when his public relations (PR) rep. stopped him in his tracks. He said, “Timmy, do you realize what happened?” Tebow replied, “Yeah, we just beat the Steelers – we’re going to play the Patriots.” The PR rep said, “No, do you realize what happened? – It’s exactly three years from the day that you wore John 3:16 under your eyes.” Tebow said, ”Oh, that’s really cool.” But the PR rep went on, “No, I don’t think you realize what happened. During the game you threw for 316 yards, your yards per completion was 31.6, your yards per rush was 3.16, the ratings for the night were 31.6, and the time of possession was 31.06. During the game 91 million people Googled John 3:16 and it’s trending number one on every platform.” The amazing thing that took place was not in the statistics or the winning of a football game, but the sets of eyes that focused on the love our God has for us. Imagine if we flooded social media and the hashtag platform with the words of God!
Another way to flip the script on hashtags is to use that opportunity to go before the throne of God in prayer. Genesis 18:27, 1 Kings 18, James 5:16b-18, and 1 Timothy 2:1 are just a small sampling of proof that God’s gift of prayer to us can redirect our worst days and create a joy within us that cannot be stopped.
Finally, if we are to truly take advantage of the platform laid before us, we should be presenting the gospel to everyone we are connected to or following. Time and time again, scripture speaks to the life-changing message of Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection. Why wouldn’t we share that with those we consider friends and acquaintances? 1 Corinthians 2:2, Hebrews 13:14-16, and Titus 2:7-8, 11-15, all challenge us as followers of Jesus Christ to share that every chance we may have. Social media is a growing tool being used worldwide, so would it not make sense for the followers of Christ to use this to influence the world for the gospel?