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Honoring Christ in the Digital Public Square

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The public square of Crete resembled a three-ring circus as much as a public square. Liars held the microphone (Titus 1:12). Lawyers were in demand (Titus 3:13). Titus had his work cut out as he shepherded the church in Crete.

Christ’s church requires similar intentionality today. Shepherds must navigate online debates between members, disagreements as to what is appropriate to post, and how to respond when members digitally celebrate what God’s word clearly condemns. Welcome to the digital public square.

Christians have found themselves in the midst of heated online debates, reposting theologically questionable memes, or lost in the downward spiral of Twitter threads. Believers don’t seem to be handling the digital world any better than unbelievers.

What a moment for the gospel to shine! In Titus 3:1-2, Paul turns our attention to how Christians live in the public square.

Paul is not offering new teachings here. He commands Titus to, “remind the people” (3:1). They had heard these commands. They had learned these lessons. The challenge was to remember them. John Stott explains, “Tthere are many warnings in Scripture of the danger of forgetfulness, and many promises to those who remember. A bad memory was one of the main reasons for Israel’s downfall” (198). Christian, in a digital world buzzing with breaking news, you are meant to remember. The gospel is to be always resounding in your minds, always echoing in your conscience, always at the forefront of your thinking.

Stott summarizes, “What Titus is to remind the people about concerns their social relationships in the world, first to authorities in particular (1) and then to everybody in general (2)” (199). In our social-media happy age, we do well to apply such lessons to the digital world. Yes, the gospel concerns your digital relationships. When you log into your social media accounts, remember these things.

Enter the digital public square with missional intentionality and Christ-honoring integrity.

Christian Attitude Towards Authority

First, Paul directs Titus to remind the believers in Crete “to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient” (3:1). Crete was full of “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). Such fools, for that is what they were, took part in insurrections and riots. This wasn’t merely a political ploy;, it was the outworking of their spiritual condition.

But Titus was to lead these believers to be notably different in their attitude towards authority. They were to be different from non-Christians.This was not a blanket command demanding indiscriminate allegiance to those in office. Nor was this an excuse for ungodly leadership. This was a gospel response to a rebellious culture.

Stott explains, “It is not enough, however, for Christians to be law-abiding (so far as our conscience permits us); we are to be public-spirited as well, to be ready (eager, not reluctant) to do whatever is good (1b), whenever we have the opportunity” (199).

Christian, what is your attitude towards authority? How is that attitude displayed in the digital public square? It is common to leverage social media platforms to demonstrate our frustrations towards our political leaders. We condemn their policies, demean their character, and criticize their choices. Yes, speak and tweet truth. Be clear in your public witness. But the gospel doesn’t need you to be sinful for it to be effective. In our digital discontentedness are we excusing digital sin? Are we embracing a non-Christian attitude toward those in authority?

Christian Attitude Towards Others

Paul then turns Timothy’s attention to how Christians posture themselves towards others.

Stott comments that Paul selects four Christian social attitudes which are to be universal in their application. These are presented with two attitudes we are to avoid and two attitudes to embrace. Negatively we are to slander no-one and to be peaceable, which in Greek is also negative, “‘to avoid quarrels.”’ Positively, we are to be… considerate, and to show true humility towards all men (2b).

Consider Paul’s negative emphasis: slander no one and avoid quarrels. Does that describe your digital activity? When you log on to social media and enter this digital circus, are your posts free of slander and quarrels? Believer, if you are not intentional in this avoidance you will inevitably enter into such ungodly attitudes.

Consider Paul’s positive emphasis: be considerate and show true humility towards all men. Does that describe your digital activity? Is the tone of your posts considerate? Are you showing true humility? Stott comments, “We must not miss the totality of the apostle’s requirement. Literally, he bids us to show “‘all gentleness to all men.’” There is to be no limit either to our humble courtesy or to the people to whom we are to show it” (200). The gospel produces gentleness in our dealings with others. Not cowardice but courageous gentleness. You are not called to be a digital bully.

Examine Your Digital Attitude

Christian, examine your digital attitude. Take a check on your digital pulse. Invite mature believers in your church to survey your digital activity and give you honest feedback on your digital activity and attitude.

Paul understood that if the Christians in Crete did not faithfully take the gospel into the public square then Crete would lack a clear gospel witness. Liars would give further and fuller voice to lies. Evil would beget evil. Sin would give rise to more sin.

So it is with the digital world. Christian presence will stem the tide toward sin. But only if we are careful to be true Christians here and provide a true witness to the true gospel. Salt is no good if it loses its saltiness. Enter the digital public square with missional intentionality and Christ-honoring integrity. Apply the gospel to both your attitude towards authority and your attitude towards others; even—perhaps especially—online.

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Jeff Mingee

Jeff Mingee is the pastor of Catalyst Church in Newport News, VA. He serves as a Church Planting Strategist with the SBC of Virginia, overseeing church planting throughout the southeast region. Jeff received his M.Div from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his D.Min. He is the author of 'Called to Cooperate: A Biblical Survey and Application of Teamwork' as well as other books. Jeff and his wife, Lauren, are the glad parents of Aiden and Carter.

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