AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.—ST. JOHN 8:32Inscribed in stone in the entry hall of the Chicago Tribune Building, Chicago, IL
With the proliferation of media sources it is possible to take in news and media non-stop from all over the world instantaneously at any hour of the day. Because of this mass flow of information, it is easy for Christians to become swept up in the downpour of news and information. And although it is good that we become aware of what is going on in our world so that we can be informed, like any good thing, there’s also a need to guard our hearts against the negative effects on our souls.
Before I get to some of the benefits of media, Let me first offer five warnings we need to take seriously. We must be mindful of our consumption of news media because:
- It can consume your time. Where news used to be a small part of our lives, it can now be a danger of consuming hours of our day through Twitter feeds, satellite radio, and TV, RSS feeds and more. We need to ask ourselves if we are being good stewards of our time.
- It can become an obsession. Like anything used excessively, even media can become an unhealthy obsession. As stories unfold, we become captive to the drama and we begin to see our lives through the lens of the news cycle. Many people have come to connect their whole identity with their political views and the latest updates of the drama being played out on their TV or Twitter feed. All the while far greater things such as family, spouses, and even ministry suffer.
- It can take your eyes off of God and place them on your circumstances. A steady flow of the news can make a person jaded and cynical because the news tends to highlight the worst of humanity. It would be one thing if the bad news turned our hearts to prayer, but it most often doesn’t. Instead it plays upon our base fears.
- It can fill you with worry and dread. As hinted at above, news stirs up (and even plays upon) our fears and tends to fill us with thoughts on the negative things in life. It can begin to induce fear, doubt, anger, and anxiety—all of which are frequently sinful in their manifestations.
- It can develop in you a misplaced hope. Along with all of the bad news, there are nuggets of hope that are tantalizingly placed in front of the consumer. One effect of a constant flow of bad news is that we begin to seek a savior—in money, politics, celebrities, even in entertainment that will take our minds off of the world we live in. The media offers its version of hope, but it never offers the hope of Christ. And outside of Christ there is no real hope. But if we are not careful, we will continue watching and waiting, thinking that the solution is just around the corner, after the next commercial break or election cycle. And yet it never comes.
But does that mean that we should’ve watch the news or read Twitter or take in any social media? No, I don’t think that a total media blackout is either necessary or beneficial. As a matter of fact, the news is a helpful thing to be aware of. Consider these five reasons:
- It can inform you of your neighbors’ outlook and the world at large. We do live in the world, even though we are not to be a part of its practice of evil. And to be engaged as Christians who want to show love and concern for our neighbor, we need to know what is going on and seek to understand the world in which they live and breathe. This will be helpful when we communicate with those that we are called to love with the gospel.
- It can help you know what to pray for. This is a big world and we need to know what is going on in it partly so we can be praying intelligently. Wars, disasters, emergencies, political and social issues, all take place on a world stage that we should be informed about so we can take those needs and the people involved before the throne of grace. It’s hard to pray in ignorance, and in this way ignorance is not bliss. Allow the news, Twitter, your Facebook feed be for you a prayer prompt. Then pray.
- It can sharpen your application of the Word. Some of the greatest Christian authors were Christian thinkers who took the Bible and applied it to the challenges of their day. This didn’t threaten the Christian faith, but made it more robust. I believe in the total sufficiency of God’s Word. Instead of fearing the onslaught of the next perversion rolling through town, we should open our Bibles and begin to understand how God has already addressed it through his Word. There really is nothing new under the sun.
- It can remind you of mankind’s depravity and the need to proclaim the gospel. Some people read or watch the news and simply become angry at the evil they see. But shouting at the devil doesn’t do anything. Instead we should see that the Word is once again confirmed to be true in its doctrine of depravity, and we should pray that instead of a self-righteous judgmental attitude, it would instead drive us to share our faith because we continue to see the destructive nature of sin on those we love.
- It can inform you of the needs of others all over the world. Seeing what is happening in another part of the world gives us an opportunity not only to pray for those needs, but it allows us to begin thinking about practical ways we can do more. Gospel missionaries are all over, and maybe a news story or headline will get us started in praying for and supporting the needs of those serving in that part of the world.
In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we are told that the sons of Issachar were “men who understood the times.” When the church understands the times while not being taken captive by them, we will become more effective witnesses and tools that are fit for our Master’s use. Make good use of news and social media as in everything, for the glory of God.