There’s a phrase from the Psalms that keeps coming back to me these days. In fact, just the other day, a friend asked me what I thought it meant. So, I thought it would be helpful to try to expound a little on God’s word to us: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Here’s the first question: why does God tell us to “be still”? I think that those words refer to our anxiety, which comes from not believing that God is God. That unbelief manifests itself in a number of ways, but I’ve been thinking especially of two particular ways that it has manifested itself in my life lately: first, not really believing in my heart that God is in charge. Second, not really believing in my heart that God is in control.
Trusting him looks like really believing in my heart that his plan is better than mine; I am not in charge. Usually, I think I know what’s best for my life. I think I know how things should be, how I should be treated, or what is “fair.” And sometimes – oftentimes – what I think does not match up with what God knows. Anxiety comes when the reality of what God is doing does not seem to match my understanding of what should be happening. Rather than being anxious, I need to be still, believing in my heart that what God is doing is better than what I have in mind.
Trusting him also looks like really believing in my heart that he is in control. I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with wanting to feel like I am in control, instead of surrendering to his control. And every time I try to take control, rather than resting in his control, I get anxious.
Why? Because I’m really not in control. Even when I want to be, even when I think I am. I am not ultimately in control of my own life. God created me, and owns me. He is the sovereign orchestrator of all things. And the best thing? He loves me. That means that each detail of my life, which God sovereignly orchestrates, is ultimately for my good, because he loves me. I would make a shipwreck of my life if I was the one orchestrating it, and I wouldn’t be very happy. It is good and freeing to rest in the sovereign will of the One who not only loves me, but has control of literally everything that happens in my life.
God tells us to be still and know that he is God because that is the only way our hearts will be at peace. Resting in his character is the key to fighting the anxious lies of the world. We need to remember that God, in his fullness, is the only one who can meet our deepest heart needs. That’s because he is all we need. He is the answer to our fears. He is the only true and lasting hope of our souls.
Ok, ladies. I understand that modesty is just as important for guys as it is for you. But I want to talk to you directly today.
I’ve heard lots of Christians talk to you women about modesty through the years, but not all of them have approached the topic in the right way. Thus, the conversation often degenerates into something that is less than helpful at best, and harmful at worst.
A lot of discussions on modesty go something like this:
“Hey, ladies. You know that all men are prone to lust, right? Ok, so knowing that, make sure to dress modestly. You don’t want to be responsible for making your brother in Christ stumble. Oh yeah, and by the way, guys, lust is a problem. Don’t lust.”
In other words, according to that logic, you women are responsible to make sure men don’t stumble. A lot of you, Christian women, are saying things like this yourselves. Question: when did we get the idea that it is the sole responsibility of women to protect the hearts of all the guys? When did we get the idea that women are to blame because men are sinful? Where did you get these ideas, ladies?
Now, it’s obvious that I’m not saying women shouldn’t care about being modest because their choices don’t matter. I’m just trying to figure out why we have to talk about this issue as if women are the main contributors to the problem. It seems skewed to me. Lust is the issue here, and that’s on the man.
So, why does modesty actually matter? Why should women care? It matters because of what the Bible has to say about the dignity and worth of women, who are created in God’s image. The point is that because you, Christian woman, are created in God’s image, your honor matters. Your dignity matters. Your purity matters. You are a valued daughter of God Himself. You deserve respect. You deserve to be treated as one of God’s own, not objectified.
I don’t think it’s fair for the Christian culture to talk about modesty the way it does. Women, you need to hear that you’re not the main reason men stumble. Sin is. You need to stop bearing the weight of our purity and yours. It’s just not fair, and certainly not Biblical.
Yes, dress modestly, but not out of an obligation you feel toward men. Do it because Jesus has given you value and worth that should not be stripped away from you.
Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking! “C.S. Lewis did NOT write about BuzzFeed! The internet didn’t even exist in his time!”
We will see.
Decades ago, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay entitled The Inner Ring. The following excerpt from said essay attempts to define what Lewis means by the term “Inner Ring”:
There are no formal admissions or expulsions. People think they are in [the Inner Ring] after they have in fact been pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great amusement for those who are really inside. It has no fixed name. The only certain rule is that the insiders and outsiders call it by different names. From inside it may be designated, in simple cases, by mere enumeration: it may be called “You and Tony and me.” When it is very secure and comparatively stable in membership it calls itself “we.” When it has to be expanded to meet a particular emergency it calls itself “all the sensible people at this place.” From outside, if you have dispaired of getting into it, you call it “That gang” or “they” or “So-and-so and his set” or “The Caucus” or “The Inner Ring.” If you are a candidate for admission you probably don’t call it anything. To discuss it with the other outsiders would make you feel outside yourself. And to mention talking to the man who is inside, and who may help you if this present conversation goes well, would be madness.
In other words, an Inner Ring is a group that is united by common knowledge, goals or purposes that are not shared with those who are outside of the Inner Ring. Lewis acknowledges that there are all sorts of Inner Rings; some are sophisticated, obvious and popular, while others are quiet and out of the way. If C.S. Lewis was alive today, he would make a distinction between “Inner Rings” and what we have come to define as “cliques.” Says Lewis, “There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together.” So, he is not writing to condemn Inner Rings. We move, then, to try to ascertain what is the point of Lewis’ essay. He writes:
I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.
In The Inner Ring, Lewis’ primary purpose is to discuss what is good and bad about this “desire” and terror.” “It [the phenomena of Inner Rings] is necessary,” he says, “and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter. A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous.” (emphasis mine) In this essay, when Lewis speaks of “desire”, he is specifically referring to “our longing to enter [an Inner Ring], our anguish when we are excluded, and the kind of pleasure we feel when we get in”; our desire to be one of “the people who know.” He is not condemning Inner Rings in themselves; he is talking about the possible dangers that come from wanting to be “in” too much.
Lewis warns his readers that “Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care.” He further warns that people who “merely want to be ‘in'” will never be satisfied, because the novelty will wear off once you are finally “in.”
Much of what C.S. Lewis wrote then was timeless, though I think that if he was alive today, he would be able to identify even more applications from our culture of the Inner Ring principle than he did fifty years ago (I am sure that you can come up with many ways that this principle has played out in your life). I also think that perhaps Lewis did not delve deeply enough into spiritual application in the concluding remarks of his essay. Before elaborating much on that, it may be helpful to identify some possible reasons for this “desire” that rules each of our lives.
First, we are created in God’s image. God is relational in himself, since he is three persons in one. Because we are relational, as He is, we are always searching for fellowship, community.
Second, we are prideful. I say this carefully, since Lewis affirms (and I agree) that Inner Rings are not bad in themselves. However, the quest to become a part of an Inner Ring can be driven by wrong motives, like pride (wanting to be better than other people, wanting to know things that other people don’t know to gain bragging rights, wanting to intentionally exclude people you don’t like). And pride may be a factor in this phenomena, though it isn’t always.
Since C.S. Lewis was alive, I personally think that this principle has become even more prevalent in our culture due to the rise of social media. I do think it applies to real-life also, but technology has added another dimension to the discussion. I want to talk about this added “dimension”, therefore, because I’m sure that the brief summary of Lewis’ essay above has made you think of several real-life applications of the Inner Ring principle. (If you haven’t, do spend some time thinking about it. Lewis gives us a lot of good things to think about.)
Social media has allowed us to create a sub-culture through Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms where we can freely exchange our ideas, and I think that we see this Inner Ring principle playing out online all the time. Due to the growing popularity of BuzzFeed, and other websites that thrive on community contributions, for example, anyone can now post articles like “20 Things Only People With Glasses Can Relate To“, “50 Things Only ’80s Kids Can Understand“, “17 Things That Only Happen to People With Unique Names“, and “30 Problems That Only Introverts Will Understand.” In addition, #hashtagging is on the rise. Hashtagging is a way to group information together that people are talking about online. For instance, soccer fans on Twitter for the next several weeks might hashtag #WorldCup2014 as they post about the games. I was thinking, maybe all of these things serve to group people into Inner Rings. After all, I will never fully appreciate any one of the 15 Things Only People With Sensitive Stomachs Know to Be True, because I do not have a sensitive stomach. I will never fully appreciate #YesAllWomen posts, because I am not a woman.
Really, my purpose is not to bash these internet-related phenomena. I don’t think Lewis would necessarily do that. My purpose is to call into question our motives in wanting to be a part of these Inner Rings.
See, while I do think that Lewis’ article was insightful, I feel like he did not go far enough in explaining just why the quest to be part of an Inner Ring always yields “pleasure that cannot last.” It’s because in the gospel, through Christ, there is always greater pleasure to be had because of Him, and who we are in Him.
Sometimes we desire to be a part of an Inner Ring because we want to feel important, validated. We want to feel unique. And we think that by being part of an Inner Ring, by finding something that others don’t have and making a point of it, we can make something of ourselves. So, we spend a lot of time seeking an Inner Ring to be a part of. We forget that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-16), that He chose us to be His children, guaranteeing an inheritance of eternal life to us (Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14), that He died for us when we didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:8), and that He gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We forget that “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ…[and] if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:3, 7)
Fact of life: there will always be Inner Rings, and they are not bad in themselves. But who needs Inner Rings when we have fellowship with God and with each other through Him? While Inner Rings are fine and natural, being in one does not make us more human. We don’t need to seek acceptance and validation through the people we hang out with, or the little things about us that set us apart and make us “special.” God Himself has made you “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession… (1 Peter 2:9).” What’s more special than that!? Articles and societies and Facebook groups and clubs and best friends are all good gifts from God; we just need to remember that we are not validated by them. And we don’t have to be afraid of not belonging to an earthly Inner Ring, because so doing does not make the gospel truth of who we are and Who we do belong to any more or less true.
We need to remember that we are validated by Jesus Christ, through His #gospel.
Recently, a friend asked me, “What do you think is a defining feature that shows someone is ready for a relationship?” That is an excellent question. Though I have never dated, I do have thoughts on this topic that I want to share with my friends who are single.
First of all, I want to say that I think one could answer this question several different ways, depending on how it is interpreted. Are we talking about physical readiness? Spiritual? Mental? Emotional? However you want to think about this question is fine, because my thoughts apply to multiple categories, as I will explain briefly at the end of this post.
You may think this is strange, but my answer to the question, “What do you think is a defining feature that shows someone is ready for a relationship?” is “Contentment in singleness.” Now, how does that make sense? Well, we might be able to answer that question with another question: What are some defining features of someone who is not content in singleness? There are probably more than two, but here are two that came to mind.
Defining Feature #1: Obsession with Being in a Relationship
We live in a relationship-crazed, sex-crazed culture. That’s just the reality of things. I don’t think I even need to elaborate much on that, because you know what I’m talking about. In this culture, it is easy to obsess over “being in a relationship.” Why? Because our society places such a high value on being in a relationship that you would almost think you’re less than human if you’re single. Most people buy into that lie, so they do everything they can to find someone to date. For a lot of people, dating has nothing to do with true love; it’s all about the emotion of being with someone, or the status symbol of “being in a relationship” (for example, how many likes you’ll get when you add a new life event to your Facebook timeline). In other words, most of our culture is driven by a self-centered idea of “love” that is nowhere near the beautiful, selfless, satisfying definition of love that the Bible gives us. Today, “love” seems to be more about what another person does for you, or how they make you feel, then it is about you daily laying down your life for them through sacrificially honoring and serving them. Discontented singles are often “me-focused” in their search for a significant other.
Defining Feature #2: Allowing One’s Happiness to Depend on Another Person
A lot of people’s emotions look something like a roller coaster, going up when their relationship is going well, and down when their relationship is not going well, or when they’re still waiting to date. This is really just a part of the first defining feature, because the reason people are obsessed about getting in and staying in a relationship is that they are basing their happiness on another person. A person who cannot be happy without a significant other is obviously not content in singleness.
(NOTE: I am distinguishing between desiring to be in a relationship and being obsessed with being in a relationship. God gave us these desires because they are good, but they become unhealthy when they become too important to us.)
“So,” someone might say, “aren’t these signs that one should be in a relationship? If a person is so desperate to date, they should be able to, right?” There are a couple of problems with that line of thinking, though, and they are all related to things that God has said about Himself.
Consider the first defining feature of a discontented single person that I mentioned. What does being obsessed with getting into a relationship say about how a person might view God? What has God said?
I think that we can get obsessed with being in a relationship because we’ve bought the lie that there’s someone out there who is going to “complete” us. So, we spend our lives looking for that one person who is going to validate our entire existence. Without that special someone, life is the pits. We don’t really believe that our value and worth is rooted in who God is and what He has done; we think that our value and worth is rooted in another person.
But the Bible says that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-16), He chose us to be His children, and guarantees an inheritance of eternal life to us (Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14), He died for us when we didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:8), and He gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is the one who gives us value and worth because of who He is and what He has done. In this society, it’s easy to get caught in the hype about finding someone to “complete” you, but the Bible says that we are already “complete” in Christ. No person can do what Christ has already done for you.*
What about the second defining feature of a discontented single person? What does basing one’s happiness on another person say about how a person might view God? What has God said?
A discontented single person with this perspective probably believes that their ultimate satisfaction is going to come from another person, and that God is less than capable of satisfying them completely. God plainly says that this is evil, when He tells Jeremiah, “my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).” David says to God in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” To put these two verses together, then, God Himself is the source of ultimate delight and satisfaction, and it is both unacceptable and foolish to try to find our greatest joy in any other person or thing.
I would humbly submit that a discontented single person is not ready for a relationship because they are putting their future significant other in God’s place. In doing that, they will end up placing unfair demands on another person that only God can meet. And, they will never be truly happy. Only someone who is seeking satisfaction in God can find the strength to love someone in good times and bad times.
I’m not saying there won’t be moments – days, weeks, or months, even – of discontentment. I have them. Those are the times that we need to fight for joy in God. It isn’t always easy. But we need to remember that Christ has already won this battle for us. It’s not going to overtake us; we can overcome in His strength.
Also, as I stated earlier, there are many ways to answer this question. I am not saying that spiritual maturity is the only indicator that you’re ready for a relationship. I do think, though, that spiritual maturity leads to a desire to seek maturity in a whole host of other important ways that would indicate readiness for a relationship. So, while I know that this is only a portion of a larger answer, I think it’s the most important portion.
Above all, rest in God. Work hard, but know that He will make you ready for a relationship in His perfect time.
*Thanks to S. Michael Houdmann for his article on what the Bible says about self-worth, from which I got my Bible references.
Recently, I went to see two movies: God’s Not Dead and Noah. Both movies have caused a lot of hype, albeit for entirely different reasons; God’s Not Dead, because it’s a Christian movie in which scientific and logical arguments are articulated for the existence of God, and Noah, because its director takes significant liberties in changing the Biblical narrative, which has caused controversy and frustration among evangelicals. I want to reflect a little on both movies, point out a connection between the two, and explain why the connection matters. Though there may be small spoilers here and there, I’ll give away as little as possible in case you have yet to see either of these movies. Also, I’ll spend more time on Noah.
God’s Not Dead
Professor Jeffrey Radisson, the atheist antagonist in God’s Not Dead, is a very angry man. That is one of the more obvious things that you will pick up on about his character beginning very early on in the movie. Throughout the film, we’re shown some of the personal problems that Jeffrey is facing. He, like any human, is a dynamic, emotive character. Thus, his pride, anger, and confusion are clearly portrayed throughout the movie as he deals with his personal trials.
The objective of God’s Not Dead is to invite us to watch as Biblical reasoning meets atheistic reasoning. The story focuses on Josh Wheaton, one of Professor Radisson’s students, who takes on his challenge to prove God’s existence to him and his class through a series of lectures. Because Professor Radisson is such an angry man, we see some heated debates throughout the film. I also think that some of the dialogue was heated because Josh took on this debate as an assignment, and he definitely saw Professor Radisson (and the entire debate) as a “project”, because that’s pretty much what it came down to in the movie.
One thing that Josh failed to do well enough, though, was to hone in on exactly why Jeffrey was so intent on proving that, in his words, God is dead. Clearly, Professor Radisson was mad at God throughout the movie because, as he put it, “He took everything from me!” At a deeper level, though, I think the reason Professor Radisson hated the idea that God’s not dead is the same reason why all atheists hate that idea; namely, they have accepted lies about God as truth, and the lies repulse them to the core of their being.
Which brings us to Noah.
This film was directed by atheist Darren Aronofsky. He himself put out the disclaimer that this movie is not an exact retelling of the Biblical and historical narrative, and I adjusted my expectations accordingly going into it. It was enlightening to see Aronofsky’s worldview play out in his movie. Particularly enlightening was the way in which he depicted God, humanity, and sin.
The god of Noah (hereafter referred to as “the Creator”, as he was called in the film) is vindictive, irrational, and unloving. Here are some evidences that that is true:
1) Early in the film, we’re exposed to the Rock People. These are fallen angels who the Creator condemned to live in bodies of stone, simply for “helping mankind.” The way the movie presented it, it seemed like we were supposed to feel the irrationality of the Creator and the innocence of the Rock People in that, but that’s just my opinion.
2) The Creator does not reward righteousness in Noah. The reason the movie says that Noah and his family were tasked with building the ark had nothing to do with how they loved the Creator and sought to serve him with their lives. According to the movie, Noah was the only person “strong enough” to complete the task of wiping out humanity, and saving the animals (more on that second thing next). But Noah and his family were humans, too, and Noah tried to kill various family members throughout the movie, thinking that the Creator told him he should.
3) See, being a human is a bad thing in this movie. The Creator, to put it even more accurately, hates humanity. Why? Well, because humans have sinned by hurting the environment, and that’s why humankind needed to be wiped out. As previously stated, the main reason Noah and his family were chosen to build the ark was to save the animals. The film’s antagonist quotes Genesis 1, which talks about filling and subduing the earth and being fruitful and multiplying, and we’re supposed to disagree with the point he makes, because too many humans equals bad things for the animals. The clear message in Noah is that mankind’s natural inclinations to fill and subdue the earth, to hunt and fish and provide for themselves, to build and create, ought to be suppressed in so far as their actions negatively impact the animals.
4) The Creator is very distant in Noah. The only time we even vaguely hear from him is when Noah receives a weird and ambiguous vision, somehow (in a way that is still a mystery to me) alerting Noah to the fact that he is going to destroy humanity in a flood. He is definitely not involved in the lives of Noah and his family as the film progresses.
I could go on, but that’s enough. In summary, Noah portrays the Creator as hateful, uncaring, and distant, reduces sin to environmental blunders, and depicts humanity as burdensome to the Creator.
And if I truly believed those things about God, sin, and humanity, I would be an atheist, just like Darren Aronofsky.
Atheism is the correlation between these two movies, because Jeffrey Radisson and Darren Aronofsky are both atheists. In God’s Not Dead, atheism plays out in Professor Radisson’s character. In Noah, atheism pervades the screenplay. And in both movies, we learn something about why some people hate God.
See, I don’t think that either Professor Radisson or Mr. Aronofsky really believe that God is dead. I think it would be more accurate to say that they hate who they think God is, so much so that they’ve built up walls of logic and reason to try to explain Him away. Anything to keep from admitting that God’s not dead.
And after watching these two movies, I can understand better why people like them do that.
I’m not saying that their perception of God is accurate; I’m just acknowledging that it’s a reality for them. And I think that rather than spending all of our time steaming because an atheist failed to tell a Bible story as well as the Bible does, we ought to be a bit more broken up because there are real people in the world who actually embrace the worldview of Mr. Aronofsky’s movie, or who identify with Jeffrey Radisson’s character.
You see, some people really think God is vindictive. Some people really think God isn’t good. Some people really think God is irrational, or that He’s unloving, or that He’s distant.
And sometimes it’s because they really have lost everything, and they blame God for it. It seems to me that if we’re really going to love people who disbelieve or doubt the existence of God, we first need to accept that, on a human level, many of them have logical reasons to believe what they do (or don’t) about Him.
We Christians can be so quick to label, or pull out all the formulas and pertinent Bible verses, or get into debates, like Josh Wheaton did. And that’s not always a bad thing. I’m just saying, it’s all too easy sometimes to treat a real person like a project or a problem; something to work on or something to change. And maybe some unbelievers have looked to us in their pain to see a demonstration of God’s love, and eventually came to believe that Mr. Aronofsky and Mr. Radisson’s god must exist, because we’ve made our God look so unattractive.
How easy it is to forget that the lesbian woman at the grocery store lost her mom to cancer. The drug addict at church got laid off. The hardened agnostic across the street just filed for bankruptcy.
How easy it is to forget that they’re human, and they have feelings and struggles, too.
Loving unbelievers by meeting them where they’re at takes humility and empathy, which comes when we remember that we, like them, were once “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12).” And, it takes an unwavering desire to point them to the joy to be found in God, which comes in rejoicing that “now in Christ Jesus, [we] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (v. 13).”
God’s not dead, and He’s given us a world to love, in His strength. By His grace, let’s do it.
“How are you?”
“Good! How are you?”
This exchange is typical, right? And sometimes, if we’re honest, we’re just not “good”, even as we say the words. Life is not ok. Things are hard.
I don’t know what it is about us Christians in America these days, but we have this funny idea that nobody is supposed to know we’re human. It’s as if we think there’s something un-Christian about going through a difficult time and admitting it.
Satan is in this phenomena, isn’t he? He tells us that suffering is supposed to be below us as Christians. He tells us that God is unhappy with us because we’re not always happy. He breathes condemnation over us, and sometimes, we breathe it in. We begin to believe that God can’t love such broken people as we are.
That’s why I love the psalmist David so much. David went through a lot of horrible, horrible things in his life. The Psalms are full of this man’s journal entries, and we don’t have to spend much time reading them to see just how human he is. Check out some excerpts from the Psalms:
“But You, O LORD–how long?” (6:2)
“Why, O LORD, do You stand far away? Why do You hide yourself in times of trouble?” (10:1)
“Will You forget me forever?” (13:1)
“You are the God in whom I take refuge; why have You rejected me?” (43:2)
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?” (77:7-9)
Do you see how not ok David was sometimes? Do you see how hard it was at times for him to trust God? Crazy, right? And David was a man after God’s own heart! Now, of course, David preached God’s promises to himself, and of course, God gave him crazy amounts of joy, too. His life wasn’t entirely horrible. But my point is that David didn’t have any qualms about letting his humanness show. He didn’t buy Satan’s lie that struggling somehow made him less of a Christian.
And neither should we.
Did you know, Christian, that there is now no condemnation for you because you’re in Christ? Did you know that the LORD waits for you to be gracious to you? Did you know that sin has no dominion over you, because you’re no longer under the law, but under grace?
And sometimes life is not “good” at all. But still, those things are true. Why? Because God’s promises are true for you regardless of how you’re feeling or how life is going for you. They’re rooted in His fixed and immovable character.
Even when you can’t seem to find joy in God’s Word. Even when your dreams have been shattered, and you can’t say “God is good” with conviction. Even when you don’t feel like singing to Him. Even when you’re wondering where the heck He is. Even when you don’t want to love some of His children.
Even then, in your humanness, remember that you’re no less of a Christian than you ever were. Remember that although “weeping may tarry for the night, joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
And while it’s still night for you, remember that being a Christian isn’t about being ok; it’s about being His.
Facebook is far and away the leading social networking site in the world. It is a useful tool for connecting with family and friends. I will say at the outset that this post is not intended to bash Facebook, to guilt Facebookers, or to over-spiritualize a social networking site, but merely to think about Facebook with you. So, here we go. To begin, I’m going make the assertion that Facebook allows us to project ourselves in a certain way, but that projection is a distinctly different thing than the real us. First, I’m going to back up my thesis, and then I’d like to consider a few implications of it.
The first reason I think that my thesis is true is that if you compare what you post on Facebook to what happens in your life from moment to moment, you’re probably going to see a difference. I do. I would attribute that to many things. In part, I care about my public image too much. I want people to like me too much. Therefore, I post on Facebook sometimes for those reasons. I’ll admit it. I don’t want my Facebook friends to know everything about me.. only the good parts. Been there?
In addition, Facebook just cannot capture life all that well, despite the way it is marketed as being so great at doing so. Funny moments are not as funny, sad moments are not as sad, beautiful scenes are not as beautiful, when they are communicated to other people through a screen. At its best, Facebook is a shadow of the goodness of real life. It’s a collection of life snapshots, but it’s not the real thing.
The second point in support of my thesis is that Facebook constantly reinforces in us the habit of thinking of our projected self as our real self. For example, when you write a comment on Facebook, you’ll see your own name next to your comment. What you’re looking at is your projected self. Pretty soon, your projected self begins to take on new life because you, your real self, are constantly observing your projection as if it has a life of its own. As your projection creates statuses, writes comments, likes content, and does all sorts of other things on Facebook, you are looking on as if you’re a totally different person watching a stranger live a different life. In fact, sometimes your projected self does things on Facebook that your real self would never do. But it feels safe somehow, because it’s not really you.. only your projection. Deep inside, you know that.
There are other proofs of my thesis which I am purposefully avoiding for lack of time and space. Perhaps you can think of some.
Here’s the question. Do you and I care more about our projected self than our real self? It’s a question concerning not just social media, but life in general. Openness versus hiddenness. Do people see the real us, or only our projection? The truth is, God is not fooled. But others can be.
I wonder if sometimes we focus so much on our projected self that we forget to take care of our real self. I wonder if we put more time and energy into the image people will see, but not the real person behind the image. And over time, in our negligence, I think that the disparity between how we appear to others and how we truly are will grow. In part, that will be because we’re so ashamed of who we’ve become that we’ll increasingly try to cover it up with our own self-projection. And, in part, that will be because as we forget who we actually are, our real self will truly fade.
Facebook is a tool. It is not sinful. We simply need to think about it Biblically and logically. Then it can be very useful.
“God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin, so that in Jesus, we might become the righteousness of God.” That’s 2 Corinthians 5:21. That’s who you are, believer. That’s who I am. We don’t define ourselves. God defines us. His righteousness defines us. We don’t have to hide behind a projection of ourselves when we can claim Jesus Christ as our very own definition. The gospel allows us to put away our pride and rest in what God has made us.. the very righteousness of Christ.