Monday, December 13, 2010

The Church of Farmville and the Facebook Christian, 1 Likes This

Social Media sites have become all the rage on the internet.  Actually, they have for some time.  A long time ago there were BBS clubs where people had online group chat rooms, then came AOL which brought it to a whole new level, then MySpace came along and did even more and for free, and now there is Facebook and Twitter.  We love these sites as they help us communicate with our friends and family on a daily basis and meet people we have previously lost touch with.  We make online profiles and personae to reflect to the world what we want others to know about us and for those who may be shy in person, it offers an outlet to let others know who we are.  Unfortunately, with all the good, there is also a lot of evil.  I do not believe Facebook is inherently evil at all as I even am on there.  In fact, that is how many of you find this blog.  The problem is that when we take something that can be used for good and a tool to keep up with our friends, and turn it into something evil.  Of course then (like that church in New Jersey that was in the news recently), we blame Facebook.  Facebook never caused anyone to sin, we cause ourselves to sin and just use it as another tool to feed our sinful desires.  We use Facebook just like others have used internet pornography, text messages to our partners in adultery, emails to others who we have inappropriate feelings for, etc and so on.  We also use Facebook as a means for dishonesty when we make up profiles that are not honest as to who we are.  We also use it to show off to the world the sin in our own lives, bringing shame to the Lord.  Today I want to talk about our online personae and our online interactions.  I think we often forget that the rules of purity apply just as much to Facebook as it does to face-to-face. 

First, I want to talk about our online personae.  As I write, I want to keep this one verse in the front of our minds.
Abstain from every form of evil.  1 Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV
A better translation of that is "Avoid any appearance of evil."  I know of church worship leaders and performers, teachers, and others with great responsibility in the church of God who have as part of their profiles pictures of them dressed inappropriately, in bars, while drinking alcohol, and doing many other sorts of things unbecoming a child of God.  What makes matters worse is that these are people who need to be seen as an example to others.  While it is true that those are only snapshots and we may not know the whole story behind the pictures, the fact is that the appear sinful.  What we post online is there forever.  What we post online can be downloaded and shared by just about anyone and once it gets out, there is no way to stop it.  Just about any day, we hear stories of people brought down by scandals involving pictures or profiles on the internet.  We have to be careful what we post online because those pictures of us we share define to others who we are.  This is especially true when we choose what pictures we want to represent us.  You are choosing those pictures that infer you are committing sin to be part of people's impression of you.  Is that really who you are in Christ or are you just trying to fit in with the world?  Either way, it is wrong.  Either way, you are doing damage to your own witness.  Either way, you are shaming the Lord who cleansed you of that sin to the point where we should not even glory in the appearance of our former selves.  If you truly believe and love Jesus for cleansing of your sins, why would you want to make it appear that He hasn't?  Please understand what you are doing by what you make your profile out to be. 

Beyond pictures, there are the things we post.  We post many thing about things we may have done that are not things we should be proud of.  It would be one thing if we were posting our struggles in order to be accountable to our friends and family (though I think Facebook is not the forum for it), but we often post things to show how "fun" we are or are having.  We brag about our sin as though it were not something we should be on our knees confessing.  We brag about what we should be ashamed of.  Of course there is the argument that I am only sharing with my friends and family.  Not everyone in the world can see your pictures or postings you say.  That may be true, but even then you have a problem.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.  Ephesians 5:3-7 NKJV
We are not only to not have those things named of us outside the church, but even within the church.  Those things we post and those pictures we display have no place even being named in the church of God.  Those things represent those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Why would you celebrate that which leads to damnation?  Why would you promote sin deserving of judgment in your own life?  I know that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. I know we live under the grace of God.  But sometimes I wonder if we even want the grace of God.  If you truly desire to be God's child, why do you desire to promote rebellion against Him?  I do sometimes wonder how much many of us actually want the grace of God and all the effects it has on us when all we really want is a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free Card.  Then again so many of our churches love to teach what grace does for us but refuse to teach what grace does to us. 

Moving along, as we chat and post with our Facebook friends, we need to be real careful that we do not fall into gossip. Facebook is fertile ground for gossip.  Gossip, just in case we forgot, is a sin.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.  Romans 1:27-32 NKJV (emphasis mine)
Gossip is a sin, plain and simple.  So when you post to Facebook make sure that everyone who sees your posts are authorized to know what you are saying.  Remember, even prayer requests are no excuse for gossip and sometimes in our zeal and care for others we spread that which is no one else's business.  The best practice is not to talk about anyone but yourself or your own family and especially never talk about someone who can not or will not be reading what you post.  I would even be careful what you say about yourself because it will be hard to claim gossip when people talk about what you post to a public forum. 

We really do need to be careful in all our conversations on Facebook.  As Christians we are told not only to refrain from gossip but any other things as well including dirty or inappropriate jokes, glorifying any kind of sin real or imagined, or tearing other people down.  We have to realize that those rules apply just as much to Facebook as they do our one-on-one meetings.  We must let our conversations be ones that honor and glorify God and edify each other and certainly not ones that bring shame to His name through our behavior. 
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6 NKJV
Let that be the guiding principle of not just our face-to-face conversations, but also what we post of Facebook or any other site.

Before I close, I just want to take a moment to address the current reports of Facebook playing a part in so many adulterous affairs, including that church in New Jersey where the pastor urged his flock to delete their accounts as even that pastor fell into sexual sin.  First of all, it is wrong to blame Facebook for adultery.  It would be like blaming inexpensive motels for fornication.  It would be like blaming McDonald's for your weight problem.  Cell phones also play a large part in adultery, too (just look at Tiger Woods), so should we declare them evil as well?  Of course we shouldn't.  The sad truth is that if motels were done away with, people would just find other places to fornicate.  If McDonald's did not exist, you would just somewhere else to eat.  The sin we commit comes from within and those other things just become tools to satisfy our own desires.  Deleting your Facebook account would not change a person's propensity for adultery.  It would just move that desire to another outlet.  What we need to do is to look into our own hearts and ask God to reveal those areas that are weak and to strengthen us in our weaknesses.  Sometimes that means giving things up that add to our temptation, but even that will never work so long as you are vulnerable.  In that, we need to protect ourselves.  My wife and I both have Facebook accounts and we know each others passwords.  We also know each others email accounts and passwords and we are always borrowing each others phones.  This has nothing to do with trusting each other, but it adds an extra layer of protection should temptation arise.  We love and trust each other entirely and in that we do all we can to keep no secrets from each other.  Also, just follow the common sense rules we follow in our face-to-face meetings. Do not get into private conversations with married (or unmarried if you are married) with people of the opposite sex, never keep a secret from your spouse, and if someone does contact you then bring yours and there spouse into the conversation. 

And so, that said, enjoy your Facebook and that fellowship that can help us throughout the week between church services.  Use it to keep contact with friends who moved away or to reconnect with friends you may have grown apart with.  Make sure you profiles reflect who you are in Christ and not who you were or desire to be in the world.  Do not let your profile even give the appearance of unrighteousness in your life.  If you still desire to make in appropriate profile, the check your heart and see where you really are with God.  Refrain from gossip and from starting gossip about yourself.  Avoid inappropriate conversations and relationships with others.  Never hide anything from your spouse.  Just like anything else in your life, Facebook as unto the Lord. 
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5-7 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. Very well put, Ben. A good reminder and challenge to be who we truly are on FB and elsewhere on-line.