Fraternal Correction in the Era of Social Media

Christians are called to live a life of purity and righteousness by faith. We know that we aren’t perfect, and we expect to stumble and fall. The faltering and falling flat is sin (whether we like that word or not).

Believers are to unite and work together to help each Christian press on toward the goal of eliminating sin and experiencing the grace necessary to persevere to the end. Part of that working together is fraternal correction.

Jesus Himself encourages fraternal correction. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out the various stages of correction. I’ve summarized them below:

  1. Approach the brother/sister one-on-one and explain what the issue is.
  2. If the believer again refuses to listen, approach him/her, but this time take two or three people who have witnessed the issue.
  3. If the believer again refuses to listen, you bring the issue before the local body.
  4. If after the church has listened nothing changes, you may disfellowship the person.

St. Paul does cite a few sins that would permit immediate disfellowship in 1 Corinthians 5:11. However, for argument’s sake as well as simplicity, I’d like to stick to the pattern set by Christ.

Initially, you have to decide what counts as “sin” in a social media context. A man may have to challenge a buddy for visiting certain Facebook pages frequently; a woman may have to challenge her BFF for something that begins to look like an online affair. It may be inappropriate pictures, or it might be a political ideology expressed in language that makes the Inquisition look like a cake walk.

Then, you have to ensure that you are in the right in challenging this behavior. You have to ensure your motives are pure. Otherwise, you yourself might fall into the same behavior.

Once that’s done, you have to follow the steps outlined by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. I propose the following as suitable social media equivalents (note I focus on FB because that’s the social media I use most):

  1. Send the person a private message outlining the offense. Include related Scripture so it’s not just what you think or say.
  2. If this doesn’t work, use a group message. Include the person who committed the offense as well as two or three other witnesses.
  3. If this doesn’t work, make a post to friends only on your wall. Outline the offense and related Scriptures.
  4. Finally, click the unfriend option.

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