I said before that my goal with this blog is to just write, but that’s not the whole truth. I want to write about a broad range of topics, but for the purpose of putting the Gospel of Jesus Christ in conversation with those topics. Culture, politics, science, all these are important by themselves to some degree, but in the end, only in how they ultimately point back to their source and creator.
Yes, I am a full-blown, head-over-heels, evangelical follower of Christ (or as they used to say before the word was somewhat spoiled by misrepresentation and a new generation decided to use different terms, aChristian). My goal is to live each day in light of eternity, praying for more and more joy in Christ, and longing for the day when I’ll actually see his face.
Knowing that, we are not called to just go up on the hillside and sit on our hands until Christ returns. We are called to live in the world (John 17:15). Christ and his disciples in the early Church actively engaged with the cultures they encountered as they preached the good news of Jesus. Take Acts 17, when Paul uses Greek poetry to explain to Greeks the truth about God. As Christians, we should never be guilty of ignorance, but should remain informed, ready to reach out to people in a context they’re familiar with, confident that what we proclaim is relevant and needed. Out of all the news that is “preached” in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or Newsweek, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only news that has the potential to change a person’s eternal destiny!
With that in mind, I wanted to start off by talking about a pretty disturbing article I came across in the May issue of The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/8930/). The title was, Is Facebook Making us Lonely?, and its basic premise was that Facebook has contributed to an American culture of loneliness. The author, Stephen Marche, notes some surprising statistics about loneliness in America, such as the fact that nearly 27 percent of households in the US in 2010 had just one person living in them, up from less than 10 percent in 1950. Also, about 20 percent of Americans (60 million) are “unhappy with their lives because of loneliness.” With this huge upsurge in loneliness, we have also “outsourced the work of everyday caring” to an army of professionals (psychiatrists, social workers, etc.) that take the place of friends and family.
Into this context steps Facebook, with its seeming ability to connect individuals on a massive scale. However, Facebook, interestingly enough, doesn’t seem to be helping with the problem of chronic loneliness. The basic problem, as I saw it in the article, is that Facebook doesn’t supply what it supposedly advertises, a simple, easy to use, method to stay connected with friends and family. Instead, the failure of Facebook reveals that “connection is not the same thing as a bond,” meaning Facebook doesn’t really allow for meaningful bonds to form between individuals. Talking to your BFF on Facebook just isn’t the same as talking to her face to face.
What can we take from this? Of course, Facebook is not by itself a “bad” thing. Like most technologies, it is a blessing in various ways, and “sanctifiable” for use in God’s family, and in reaching out to others in love. But Marche makes several good points in this purely secular analysis. We live in an age of unparalleled connection, but we’re lonelier than we ever have been. How can the church offer a counterpoint and an alternative to a culture of individuals who are slowly losing their ability to interact with one another in meaningful ways?
I remember Hebrews 10: 24-25, which commands that we should “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The author states that we need to continue to meet, to “stir up” one another, in love and encouragement. This sense of community and love in the body of Christ is, frankly, the most obvious way that we are to demonstrate Christ to the world. After all, Jesus himself said in his “farewell address,” that by this love for one another, the world will know that we are his disciples! (John 13:35). The body of Christ meets one of the deepest needs of the human condition, the need for community, acceptance, and deep friendship, a friendship that includes talking through the “hard things” of life, not just sports or the weather. This is not to say that this is the main problem which life in the church addresses (which is the disjunction between sinner and Savior), but this problem is greatly addressed there.
Last year, I had a student in my Bible study tell me that what he appreciated most about our group was that we were open to talking about the sin in our lives. We were honest and unafraid to address those subjects that would naturally be avoided in most “shallow” conversations. This is an example of how we can be an encouragement to one another. Only when we allow ourselves to be exposed before those we trust, can we truly receive healing and encouragement from one another.
If the facade we put on through Facebook was removed and people could see who we truly were on the inside, I would probably be not just a little shocked by how different many people looked. All of our sins and imperfections would be laid bare before an audience. We would see one another the way God sees us, which would be a radical and daunting challenge! I would challenge everyone who does not have those one or two people with whom they can share the heavy things of the heart with, to prayerfully seek for them.
Let’s not give up “meeting together.” We shouldn’t turn away from the church, with some lame excuse like “I love Jesus but not the church.” No, if you don’t love Christ’s body, you really don’t love him. Yes, it’s filled with broken, sinful, people who need Jesus just like everyone else. But when we strive for deep, harmonious community with one another, people do take notice.