How would Jesus behave on social media?

How would Jesus behave on social media? May 11, 2015
buddy jesus
“Jesus is my buddy,” wishmerhill, Flickr C.C.

Christians behave badly on social media. We’re rude. We’re arrogant. We gossip. We spread rumors. We’re not nice like Jesus would be. Or would Jesus be nice? Based on how Jesus acted in the Bible, how would he behave if he were on social media today?

1) He would be both kind and rude but never nice

Jesus was never nice to people, at least not in the southern genteel way that I was taught to be nice. He didn’t practice the art of speaking delicately and inoffensively. He was very blunt and forthright with everyone he spoke to. He wasn’t even polite to his own mother. When she asked him to do something about a wedding banquet in Cana that was running out of wine, he said back to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me?” (John 2:4). Though Jesus was rude to people, he was also kind, especially to the people with ailments and disabilities whom he healed as well as any children who were around.

2) He would friend, like, follow, and even retweet people we strongly disapprove of

I’m used to thinking of Jesus as hanging out with the outsiders, “the tax collectors and the prostitutes,” to use his language. The gospels pit Jesus against “the Pharisees,” who were the religious insiders. The problem is that tax collectors and prostitutes were two very different categories of people. Prostitutes were the type of outsiders that progressives like me would champion. But what made the tax collectors offensive to the Pharisees is what makes the Koch brothers offensive to progressives today. They betrayed and exploited their own people in collusion with the Roman Empire. And Jesus was eating and drinking with them. When the Pharisees called him out for condoning their behavior with his presence, he said, “I have come not to call the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). On social media today, Jesus might piss off the conservatives by sharing blog posts from heretics like the Samaritan he made into a hero of his best parable. But he would also piss off the progressives by taking selfies with rich white guys at conferences that were the opposite of intersectional.

3) He would call everybody out, especially those who were “on his side”

Though there was certainly a kind and gentle side to Jesus, he could be brutal, especially with his own disciples. He was constantly insulting them and marveling at their supposed lack of faith and stupidity for not understanding his bizarre, esoteric parables. It’s always really corny when preachers try to pretend that Jesus’ disciples really were a bunch of idiots and that he was being perfectly reasonable to call them that. None of us would have done any better trying to understand a man who constantly spoke in riddles. Jesus’ best friend Peter got the worst of it. Jesus called him Satan (Matthew 16:23) only a few verses after telling him that he was the “rock” on which he would build his church (Matthew 16:18). If Jesus were on the Internet today, he wouldn’t spare anybody. He would rip us to shreds on our own terms. He would expose all the subtle heresies of the doctrine warriors and make plain all the underlying selfish agendas of the social justice warriors. The only way to avoid Jesus’ critique would be to avoid acting like you were an expert about anything.

4) He would stick up for people when they screwed up

Jesus could be ruthless in his arguments with the Pharisees and his disciples, but when people did clumsy or socially inappropriate things that triggered others’ criticism, he always stuck up for them. When a “sinful” woman came into a dinner party at the home of Simon the Pharisee and gave Jesus a completely inappropriate erotic foot massage with her hair and her kisses, he laid into Simon just for shooting her a dirty look (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus names all the ways Simon has failed as a host and all the ways the woman exceeded his hospitality. Later on in the story, another woman came after Jesus with a super-expensive bottle of perfume which she smashes and dumps all over his head. The socially conscious disciples in the room started hollering about how that bottle could have been sold and the money given to the poor. And Jesus turned this woman’s clumsy, well-intentioned gesture into the dignified burial anointing she didn’t know she was performing. He said, “Wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her” (Mark 14:9). So what would Jesus do on social media if he encountered a hashtag shame-storm against somebody who said something really dumb they shouldn’t have? I don’t know, but I would hate to be on the business end of one of Jesus’ tweets in response.

5) Basically he would tear down the proud and lift up the humble

Jesus’ basic principle for how he interacted with people in the gospel stories is summed up by James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In addition to his fierce defense and gentle healing touch for those who have been wounded and stepped on by society, Jesus would be gracious and empowering to people who are capable of self-criticism and ask genuine questions that aren’t designed to make them look smart or build a platform. But he would be pretty rough on those of us who like to feel superior to others, regardless of which ideological tribe we follow. Whenever I’m feeling deliciously self-righteous and “prophetic,” knowing that Jesus is 100% on my side and the people I’m denouncing are complete imbeciles, that’s the moment when I should expect him to say, “Get behind me, Satan!”

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  • While I find this a pretty worthwhile post as a whole (and I agree with most of it), do you mind if I ask a question?
    I’m really disturbed by the notion of Jesus insulting and ripping people to shreds. Perhaps it’s the phrasing that makes him sound verbally abusive, but, there the insults are in the gospels.
    I’m sure things have been lost in our modern English translations of Ancient Greek, but, how do you think he is still a perfect and good God?

    • Sometimes God is just a jerk I guess?

      • Then why serve someone who is a jerk? 🙁

        • louismoreaugottschalk

          in AA we say take the best and leave the rest. If jesus words are not acceptible
          Bc they seem harsh is that a reason to drink or use? That is the only reality if one is an addict.

        • I think we need to read the gospel more critically. Not everything that is attributed to Jesus was spoken by Jesus. I think many times Jesus functions in the gospels as the mouthpiece of the christian communities that birthed the texts.

          • That’s an interesting perspective. I’m curious, how do you think we know who or what Jesus really was, then? 🙂

          • Diana

            We average it out and come to our own conclusions. That said, our own prejudices can often get in the way of our averaging, thus leading to some pretty warped perspectives on Jesus–ranging from Jesus as mascot to Jesus as “prize fighter with a tatoo down his leg.” How we see Jesus is often as much a reflection of ourselves as it is of anything we see in the Bible.

          • May I recommend a great book on the subject? Check out The Community of the Beloved Disciple by Raymond Brown. It will give you an in depth answer to the question at hand. One of the best books I’ve ever read;)

          • thanks! I will definitely read it. 🙂

      • Gabe Pfefer

        I think Jesus unquestionably comes off as abusive when he calls the Canaanite woman a dog (some translators would say he used language closer to b***ch) in Matthew. But then he is taught a lesson because of his cruelty. I think the whole episode was written to both show us that in his embrace of total humanity he possessed our worst faults as humans, and also to show us the folly in speaking sharply and cruelly without thinking.

      • Diana

        Gee Morgan! Tell us how you really feel! 😉

  • matt hill

    cool idea for an article, but i’m not sure about the implied point – that we should act on social media as Jesus would have – for the same reason that i was never sure about the whole WWJD? thing: we’re not Jesus . . he was human and divine interacting with just plain humans . . the same is not true of us . . his specific role during the specific geo-political-cultural milieu of first century Palestine is very different than our specific role now, 2015, on the interwebs . . of course, there are similarities too, and Jesus is obviously to be an example for our behavior in many ways, but these and other differences rule out a strict 1 to 1 correspondence . .

    • Oh I don’t think we can emulate Jesus with all of this stuff. But I think that our assumptions about niceness need to be put in check.

      • matt hill

        perhaps . . but using Jesus as a model for “niceness/rudeness,” which is what you’re advocating, might not make the most sense for the reasons i mentioned . . his cleansing the temple and calling out the pharisees, etc. for example, don’t seem very nice, but i’d say actions like that had to do with his specific role, which is not ours . . i think current understandings of “niceness” are probably more relevant in our case . . in other words, if people see modern-day Christians as “not nice,” regardless of how much precedent me might believe we have based on what Jesus did, *they* don’t have that context necessarily, so their takeaway will be, “that Christian is not nice” . . which i think is undesirable . . btw, this does not mean we shouldn’t be truth tellers and call out things that are wrong, have opinions that are controversial, etc. . but even so, *how* we do it is important . . and our standard for that simply cannot always be Jesus . .

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      I think it is possible if one has the paraclete to guide one.

      • matt hill

        i don’t see it as a matter of possible or not possible, but should or should not . . for the reasons i gave above, i don’t think that we always *should* see Jesus as our model for how to act . . because of who he is and when he lived on earth vs who we are are and when we’re living, the standard is different

        • louismoreaugottschalk

          I think it is interesting and quite wonderful the convo we are having rite now! Out of 7 + billion ppl on this planet matt & lou are experiencing the miracle of contacting each other over the internet and sharing a sacred moment of our limited precious human time. I see that I am ‘in christ’ and have the paraclete, as of more than 40 yrs ago, who has been helping me transform myself and my behavior into a likeness of christ. I see that I was further enriched in my walking in the spirit 10yrs ago when i first took the 3rd step in AA & am experiencing constant contact as a way to stay sober & serene in these days of crisis & national/global insanity. That is all.

  • There is one thing I keep telling folks, “Jesus isn’t nice but his so good”… So being good does not equate niceness. After all, niceness isn’t one of the fruits of the spirit. Well put Morgan, I see the heart of what you are trying to convey here and I love it.

    Thanks for sharing this…

    • louismoreaugottschalk

      I think nice has a price!

    • Thanks for reading.

  • Jane Steele Valentine

    why would jesus say “get behind me satan” to someone who follows him…a christian? He wouldnt.

  • David Bruggink

    I agree with your overall point, Morgan but I would like to add that gentleness is underrated. I do think there is a difference between artificial niceness and gentleness, and I think the latter can be beneficial in many situations. To speak in a way that is thoughtful, understanding and well stated can help to smooth over many potential arguments and even defuse potential violence. Sometimes bluntness is necessary, but sometimes it can cause unnecessary friction.

    • Great point! All of the epistles counsel us to be gentle and patient with each other.

  • Cassie Devereaux

    I’m not convinced Jesus would waste his time with a twitter or facebook account in the first place.

  • Cynthia Astle

    Another great post picked up for UM Insight. Love the chance to publish a photo of Buddy Jesus!

  • Val

    I think that it is not easy to understand how Jesus would act on social media but I think that we should always keep in mind what was His purpose: to share the Truth. And while the way we share it can vary depending on the epoca, the Truth is always the same. So how should we act on social media? I think we should always choose the best way to share the Truth, sometimes it means to be rude, sometimes with kindeness, sometimes we will speak and sometimes we will remain quiet, and we will always treat people in a way that is consistent with their infinite worth. 🙂

  • Brandon Roberts

    agreed 100% even though i’m agnostic

  • ugluk2

    Ouch. You’re right, of course.