Do your MEMES grieve the Holy Spirit?

Watch this study instead of reading it.

I’ve been witnessing a disturbing trend among Christians on social media. Every time it happens, it compromises the soul of both the lost and the Christian. When you do this, you grieve the Holy Spirit. 

In 2007, I was working at a sign shop and my coworker and I would spend all lunch break cracking up over…cat memes. The first time I saw the “I can has cheezburger?” meme, I lost it. Making memes (particularly featuring a cat or two) was the new Internet sensation. 

Did you know? Richard Dawkins is actually credited for coining the word meme. In the 1970s, He was describing cultural ideas or traits that get passed on to other people, similar to human genes. So he called them memes. By the late 90s, some people had begun using this term to describe any contagious idea, and by that time, the internet was the main carrier of such contagions. 

Today, most of us have a more specific definition of meme: A combination of image and text that’s funny and immediately relatable. To some people, memes have replaced the Sunday morning comic strips.

Memes are used to express every kind of emotion and situation. A common use of memes these days is to express sarcasm, or a mic drop. It sums up a position in a matter of a few words and ends the conversation.

Are Christians allowed to have a sense of humor? Let me ask you, did you hear the one where a priest, a scribe, and a rabbit walk into a synagogue? The rabbit says, “I think I’m a typo.” … *chirp chirp* 🙃 Oh, I didn’t ask if Christians have a sense of humor. Sorry if I almost made it seem like we do. I just asked if we’re allowed to have a sense of humor.

I know what it’s like to say a joke and nobody gets it, or I’m the only one who finds it funny. I’m a dad, after all, and all my jokes became funny when they became apparent. … *chirp chirp* I also know what it’s like to instantly regret a joke because the timing or content was inappropriate.

Does God have a sense of humor? Humor is something we as humans have, because we have limited perspective. Jokes are funny, because punch lines are delivered after other information is given. How does that work for someone who knows the beginning from the end—the punchline from the start? I’m not sure, but we can find humor all over Scripture. The Bible makes humorous points with puns and situational comedy. 

As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout,
So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.

Proverbs 11:22

In case you missed it, that was a burn. Read the book of Proverbs, and burns are all over the place. Jesus also made points with humorous and outrageous images, even burning some folks along the way.

Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! 

Matthew 23:24

Speaking of blind guides, Jesus gave us this image to think about:

Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.

Matthew 15:14

Other images Jesus gave us are pearls before swine, and a camel trying to fit through the eye of a needle, and a dude with a log sticking out of his eye trying to help someone with a speck in their eye. Sure, these things won’t have the comedy club rolling, but that was never their purpose. The point is, there is humor in the Bible, and it’s fun and effective to use humor to make our points—both everyday points as friends, parents, or coworkers, as well as our biblical points.

But be careful about burns and mic drops.

I got the idea for this study when I saw a Christian post this meme on Facebook: 

The post had a few likes and dozens of laughing reactions. The comment section was teeming with Christians laughing at and condemning “wokeness,” political agendas, as well as anyone who thinks someone’s gender can be fluid. Here were my thoughts:

Christians are to not just share the gospel, but also wear the gospel. 

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Colossians 4:5–6

Paul, who always seemed to know what to say does not emphasize what to say here. Instead, he emphasizes how to say it. And the focus on this passage and this study is how we respond “toward those who are outside.” We’re talking about the general person of the world—strangers, your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and relatives—the person Jesus had in mind when He said:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

The New Testament has plenty to say on how to respond to and even rebuke false teachers, but that’s another study for another time. Some Christians I know have done a fantastic job studying their Bibles (and even science and philosophy) and are ready to obey the first part of 1 Peter 3:15. They can defend their hope and what they believe. But they often forget the part that commands us to do so in meekness and fear. 

Christian, do you filter every share, every comment, and every post through the character of Jesus?

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who wins souls is wise.

Proverbs 11:30

I had this verse hanging in my bathroom when I first started preaching the gospel. It was an important reminder for me everyday that while I studied to teach the gospel, I kept my humility in check. You may win the argument, which may even be as simple as posting a meme. But in the process, did you lose the soul?

Your social media profile is a billboard for what’s in your heart.

But those things which proceed out of the mouth [can we take the liberty to add whatever words proceed from your keyboard or share buttons?] come from the heart, and they defile a man.

Matthew 15:18

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Matthew 12:36–37

It’s likely that right now one of your friends is going through their defining moment. They have questions about who they are as a person—perhaps as a person created in God’s image. Wouldn’t you like to be the person they come to? They remember you’re a Christian, and you normally post some pretty positive things about the Christian life. They prepare to come to you and ask questions about Jesus and what He thinks about their lifestyle, struggle, addiction, or questions, but then, they see you’ve posted a meme to make fun of their identity—the core of who they think they are. 

On the other hand, there was this pep talk my friend once overheard a store manager give to her crew to prepare them for their coworker coming back to work after having a gender-confirming surgery. The manager encouraged the employees:

Have a really in depth conversation. Everything depends on what the [transitioning] team member is comfortable with. It seems really unfair to the team, but that’s the only way to do it. Just understand there will definitely be some performance issues because they’re going to leave one person and come back another, which is quite challenging. The team needs time to get used to it and adjust.

If your friend is struggling with this, and they have both of these people in their life—a Christian who makes fun of them in order to gain likes and comments, or an entire company going out of their way to accept them, which one will they choose?

Of course, I am not suggesting you should compromise the gospel’s values or bow down to political agendas in order to be liked by the world. I’m reminding you of what God expects of you: wear the gospel; don’t just share it.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22–23

Whether or not you have someone in your family or circle of friends who lives in a particular lifestyle, you need to remember that those who do struggle with same-sex attraction, alcoholism, hypocrisy, and even bad theology are people created in the image of God. Dropping a meme to make fun of them is arrogance—the antithesis to the fruit of the Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit says that those who revile (or abuse) others will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10).

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth [and again, we say keyboard or share button], but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:29–30

Do you see the eternal threat here? Cat memes and Lord of the Rings jokes are one thing (both of which I usually find hilarious). But breaking down a person for your own entertainment grieves the Holy Spirit and bars you from His kingdom.

In the same chapter, Paul urges the truth-speaker to speak in love. I have heard many people justify terrible, condemning speech because it was the truth. And they even try to make it seem loving because they are warning someone about the wrath of God. By doing what? Dropping a mic? Pointing a finger and yelling? Laughing and posting a snarky comment? Using your social media profile as a platform for healthy discussion is one thing. But using it to bully people into your worldview is another. Truth is the content—the part that is out of your control. Truth is truth, regardless of what you think of it. Love is the delivery—and you have complete control how you deliver the truth.

So, instead of dropping that supposedly hilarious meme, what could you do? Here are a couple of options:

  • You could still post it with your personal reflection of how this particular meme is the opposite of how a Christian should respond to a social phenomenon.
  • You could comment on the post or message the person who originally posted it, respectfully urging them to reconsider how they present the gospel (perhaps even share this study). 
  • Instead of sharing the meme, it could drive you to post a status update about how you’re always open to discuss things with people, no matter how others in society try to shame or isolate them.
  • Or you could scroll on while saying a quick prayer.

All of this, of course, should never be done with a hidden agenda, with passive aggression, or a chip on your shoulder. You’re simply trying to share the gospel while wearing it.