Thursday, February 17, 2011

Would Jesus Ever Facebook?

I must be the least productive blogger ever. I just realized it has been almost four months since my last post. So sad. It’s not that I don’t write. I keep my personal journal at least more consistently than I blog. And I am known to “tweet” and post to my Facebook page on a regular basis. You can see in my sidebar links to my own social networking sites. I have to admit I’m a social networker.

It also deserves some mention that my life has been very full lately. Having been part of a teaching team for women’s retreat while leading two separate Bible studies in the fall, I also experienced the loss of my mother-in-law just prior to holidays. My husband and I traveled to California to spend Christmas with my daughters and I was gone an entire month as I awaited the arrival of my first grandchild. Whew!

What a blessed life I have. But sometimes it gets in the way of blogging. I’m here today because the question was raised in  a recent women’s leadership meeting at church as to whether we are doing all that we can to utilize social media to reach and minister to women. As one of two women in the room who regularly ~ if by regularly you mean: more than the other women in the room ~ network with women via social media (hi @jeaniecullip) I thought it was a question worth pondering.

Recently a friend of mine called, sounding somewhat stressed as she explained to me what she had just done. She had systematically unfriended all her contacts and deleted every existing evidence of having ever been connected to Facebook. It was a gutsy move by my estimation. Nevertheless, she was worried that her actions might be misconstrued (thus her confession to me and an emphatic assurance that this by no means meant she did not “like” me.) For her part, she found herself more consumed by it than she had time to spare. It was a move toward focus and priority in her life. She had no idea at the time that I was having my own doubts, having recently watched the award-winning movie the social network.

The story, based on true events surrounding the website Facebook, was intriguing considering how much controversy plagued the site from its inception. And as I watched I contemplated the implications of my involvement with it. At the very least, by the time my friend called with her resolve to remove herself from it, I was able to say “Good for you!” But I am still wondering about the impact my involvement has on ministry and outreach to the women of our local church and the faith community at large.

I do find that I am in contact with women often on Facebook and Twitter. I have been able to make connections with women outside my usual sphere of communication. Most of these contacts have been soul-feeding, life-giving, and faith-building. But on the odd occasion I feel a little more than uncomfortable with some of the content I am privy to.

There is no doubt that I am responsible for my own behavior in regards to any social media that I use. It is up to me to make sure that I am representing Christ in a way that honors Him and glorifies His name. But what of all the other stuff I have to sift through just to have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives? All the articles and videos and games and viruses … you get the picture.

Makes me wonder about Jesus in His day … was He the ultimate social networker? And when he ate with tax collectors and other sinners. Did He have to listen to their coarse language and conversations on unseemly topics? Did He have to see the scantily clad women and the lecherous men who ogled them? Or did everyone just snap to when He came into their presence? I think more the former than the latter. But I also feel that the more He graced them with His presence, the more glaringly their own behavior became in their sight. And we know by His word that this impacted more than a few of the lost and hurting around Him.

This provides a small example of how we might minister in the world, but then again Jesus was not prone to sin the way we are when confronted with a broken world. He was able to be in the presence of sinful people and not be enticed to join in. He could keep His focus and see to the heart of the cause and the need for salvation in people’s lives. I am a mere human, prone to my own sinful behavior.

The apostle Paul addressed this dilemma somewhat when he wrote to the church at Corinth:

         I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;
I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.

Paul seems to be saying that we need to maintain contact with the world in order to continue to have an impact on them. He goes on to say that we should be careful in our associations with people who claim to be believers but exhibit all the signs of immorality, implying that we can be more easily lead into sin by them. But clearly, he is encouraging associations (can we imply our cultural norm of networking here?) with non-believers.

I’m not sure what conclusion I will have come to by the next time our Women’s council convenes. But I know this:

         For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (2)

If using social media can be done in a way that is sensible, righteous and godly in the present age, we may have to further consider the best way to do so.

So reason together with me, beloved. How do YOU use social media on a daily basis? What do you see as the relevance or value it adds to our work for the kingdom?

Blessings, Tina

(1) New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (1 Co 5:9–10). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

(2) New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Tt 2:11–14). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

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