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 (Manna 68: Succession: Generation Next)
The Image of a Christian in the Digital Age
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The Image of a Christian in the Digital Age

Charmian Chong—London, UK

In this modern day and age, social networking has become an integral part of many of our lives. Being a user of Facebook, I have often found myself automatically typing the Facebook web address into the address bar without even intending to. When we come home from our studies or from work, websites such as Facebook and Twitter allow us to continue interacting with the outside world. However, in doing so, has it ever occurred to us that we are not only communicating with others, but that we are also creating a virtual image for ourselves? Does this image conform to God’s expectations of His children? As social networking becomes an increasingly significant part of our daily lives, the way we portray ourselves online is becoming just as important as the way we present ourselves as Christians in our normal lives.

All that is in the world

The image that the world wants us to convey—one of outer beauty, success and high status—is clearly promoted by magazines and on television. It is also referred to in the Bible:

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

(1 Jn 2:16)

Just as Jesus was confronted with these worldly values when tempted by Satan (Mt 4:1–11), we too are constantly being bombarded by these ideas. People set trends and the world encourages us to follow them. It is natural for us to feel more comfortable blending in with everyone else because the world pressurizes us to look, speak and behave as others do. But Jesus has already told us that the world “neither sees Him nor knows Him…” (Jn 14:17). Therefore the world will have expectations of us that are not in line with the teachings of Christ. As more and more people follow the trends of the world, there will be pressure on Christians to likewise conform.

If we think about it, social networks are also a medium by which such ideals are encouraged. What are we revealing to others about ourselves when it comes to our own Facebook profile? If someone “tags” an unattractive picture of us, we may immediately feel embarrassed, and we can very easily “untag” ourselves. Our statuses reveal to others what is on our mind. We “like” things to show others what we approve of. Through all these actions, we build up an image of ourselves; one that we allow or even want others to see, in terms of looks, things we support and things that we think about. As a result, we must be watchful of how we conduct ourselves, not only in our daily lives, but also online.

Do not be conformed to this world

It is important for us to first reflect on the image we portray to others in our normal day-to-day lives. Do we find that we do what the world expects of us? Paul encouraged the members in Rome:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

(Rom 12:2)

We should not conform because we are actually not of this world, merely sojourners and pilgrims (1 Pet 2:11). We must therefore remember who we are on this earth. We do not belong here, so we do not need to resemble people of the world.

Jesus explains to us how we should live whilst we are in this world:

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

(Mt 5:14, 16)

A candle that is lit in a dark room can be seen easily; it stands out and lights up the corner that it is in. When we are lost in a dark place, a torch can help us see and find our way around. What Jesus requires of us is to be different. Rather than blending in with the darkness, we should lead others to Jesus with courage and boldness, just as a little bright light can help someone find their bearings and walk in the right direction. As the light of the world, we do not need to be afraid of shining for our Lord. When others see that we are different, that we are of God, we introduce them to Jesus and in doing so we glorify our Father in heaven.

So what can we do to bring light to those around us? In our daily lives we can shine through our speech and deeds, speaking words seasoned with salt, and acting in love and kindness. For example, we can monitor the words that we speak by restraining ourselves from using inappropriate language, even if those around us freely speak such words. Refraining from certain unchristian activities, despite others taking part in them, shows that we hold on to a set of godly values. We can show the love of Christ in our actions, through even the smallest of deeds. Helping someone we see needing it, or caring for the needs of our brothers and sisters, can radiate the compassion of Jesus: a simple greeting or “how are you?” shows others that we care about them. We should therefore remember who we are on this earth and aim to diffuse Christ’s fragrance, enabling others to draw closer to Him.

Adopt the image of Christ online

Once we know our identity, we can understand what sort of image it is we should be portraying. As previously mentioned, our Father is in heaven (Mt 5:16), so as His children, we should look like our heavenly Father, in the same way that a son looks like his parents. What were some of the attributes of Christ whilst He was on earth?


Christ had the greatest love, so much so that He was willing to humble himself to the point of death. However, this was not the only way in which Christ demonstrated His love. He also showed that He was selfless by caring for the wellbeing of those around Him. Before Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross, He asked John to take care of His mother (Jn 19:25–27). Even at the point of death, Christ thought about His mother and who would take care of her.

Jesus instructs us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt 22:39; Lev 19:18). This is the second greatest commandment from God (Mt 22:36–39). Jesus uses the parable of the good Samaritan to illustrate how one can love one’s neighbor (Lk 10:30–37). The Samaritan had mercy and compassion on the man who had been beaten, by not only providing immediate care by bandaging the victim’s wounds, but also by going beyond this and taking him to the inn and paying for his stay there.

Likewise, God wants us to have love for one another. We can use social networks to our advantage and show our love for others, for example, by using Facebook to check up on them during the week. A simple “Hi, how’s your week going?” or a few encouraging words can help cheer someone up. Keeping in touch with our brethren when we are not in church shows that we are still mindful of them, and they will be able to feel the love of our Father through us.


Whilst on this earth, Jesus did not cause disputes but made peace, despite facing much opposition. When Jesus went to the temple one morning, the scribes and Pharisees brought an adulteress to Jesus to test Him, hoping to find something to accuse Him of (Jn 8:6). Rather than retaliating, Jesus remained silent. He then spoke words of mercy to the adulteress that shook their conscience (Jn 8:1–12). Jesus did not worsen the situation by speaking harshly and getting involved in their trouble-making.

Similarly, Paul reminds us “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all men” (Tit 3:2). We can be peacemakers online as well as in our daily lives by speaking words of gentleness and not stirring up trouble. As the preceding verse says, we can do this by speaking evil of no one. Like Jesus, we should remain silent if our involvement in certain conversations will only cause more tension. If we find that someone posts something online aimed negatively at us, we should all the more try to remain silent. Instead of posting things that provoke or reveal our anger, we should try to use words that instill peace in the hearts of those who read them. In this way, we will surely project the peaceful appearance of Christ.


When Christ was faced with temptation (Mt 4:1–11), He was able to resist and remained blameless. Rather than allowing the things of the world (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life) to cause Him to sin, He was able to remain holy.

Since the days of the Israelites, God has instructed His people to be holy:

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Lev 19:2)

As our heavenly Father is holy, so we must be holy in all that we say and do. The things that we post or “like” on Facebook, for example, give an indication as to what we approve of. “Like”-ing images or posts that are inappropriate can defile us and our brethren:

The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.

(Lk 11:34)

Therefore, we should refrain from even looking at such images. Moreover, we should use words seasoned with salt, which will impart grace, rather than foul language. We must take heed to resist the things of the world so that we do not cause ourselves or our brethren to stumble.

As social networking is becoming such a large part of our lives, we should all the more strive to achieve the likeness of our Father. Although it is difficult to do this, we must remind ourselves that, though we live in the world, we are not of the world; rather, we are the sons of Christ. With this status in mind, let us be diligent to glorify God. By imitating the image of Christ, we bring His light to all those who can see us, whether this be in the real or the virtual world.

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Author: Charmian Chong