Monday, January 4, 2016

The Social Media Lie

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I suppose the best way to start this first post of 2016 is by describing my morning.  I am home with laryngitis, having used up my available voice by preaching three times over the weekend.  I started coming down with what I respectfully call “the crud” almost a week ago.  Today, though I feel fairly strong physically, the virus’s systematic and relentless attack on my respiratory system has rendered my voice a short-term casualty.  This is one of those days in which my presence in the office wouldn’t mean much, so I chose to work from home.  My best form of communication right now is a keyboard and that isn’t affected by my location as long as we have some way to access the internet on both ends.  Our staff arrived this morning at the office to find that internet access (which includes the phone system) wasn’t available, but that's another story.

In the process of letting key staff members know my situation, I sent out several text messages, then settled in to a time of Bible reading and prayer.  If I understand Acts 6:2-4 correctly, this is my primary assignment.  Almost instantly, I began receiving text messages in reply to the one I sent out.  In the mix, I received communiques about a meeting in Phoenix next month.  Then, I noticed a query from one of the members of Climbing Companions, a Facebook group of us who are reading the Bible together daily.  In the course of the morning, I noticed that a friend got married, some celebrated wedding anniversaries and children or spouses of Facebook friends had birthdays.

Each of these notices seem to scream at me that I must reply in some way and do so immediately, if not sooner.  I used to feel a twinge of guilt if I didn’t instantly reply to a text  message…or a Facebook message…or a Twitter direct message.  It was only as I began to realize the growing number of social media services, the diversity of ways people and/or businesses were using them and the way their messages seemed to silently shout “URGENT” that I paused to think, “What did Jesus do?”

Your first reaction to that question could be, “Irrelevant; Jesus didn’t have social media!”  Well, have you ever stopped to think about the enormous pressure put on Jesus when he was here on earth?  How about the day He was rushing to the bedside of Jairus’ sick daughter and was interrupted by the woman with female bleeding that had been going on for twelve years (Mark 5:21-43)?  What do you do with His delay in going to care for His friend Lazarus (John 11)?  How about the way Jesus answered His parents (Luke 2:41-52)?  And what do you do with the ease with which he turned down the requests of the villagers (Mark 1:35-39) and sent the disciples away by themselves after the feeding of 5,000 (Matthew 14:22-23)?

If you stop to think about it, Jesus was constantly bombarded with pressure to stop what He was doing and pay attention to something else.  That pressure may not have been coming in on His mobile phone, but it was persistent and persuasive nonetheless.  If anything, the fact that most of this pressure took place in person made it that much harder for Him to know when to say “No”… or “Yes”…or “Not yet.”

The upside in this era of instant communication is that we can meet up and keep up with family and friends that would otherwise be cut off from us.  Most of us love the joy of watching the video of a toddler’s first steps or electronically joining in on a loved one’s birthday party.  Almost every tragedy is made more real by social media.  When a dear friend lost his wife last week in the Dominican Republic, I knew about it almost instantly.  My heart grieves with him and I have reached out with words of comfort...

…but I can’t be there with him, nor am I supposed to be.  That one is easy to understand, but what about the life events in my own town that I must miss, if I am to follow through on my assigned duties from God?  Those urgent pleas to be there in the time of other peoples’ needs often leave me struggling with whether I say “No”…or “Yes”…of “Not yet.”  The Social Media Lie is that I can vicariously be there for everyone at every moment and should feel guilty when it doesn’t work that way.
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Because of the finite quantity of time in our lives, you and I MUST dissect this subject. Many of us will have to admit that our schedules are like runaway trains: we know a crash is imminent, but we can’t seem to slow down.  It’s a tough subject that we will tackle in week 2 of “Heart Health” at Stone Ridge Church.  Last weekend (when I still had a voice), I told you that this would be a great series which can help your friends who don’t go to church.  I hope you’ll invite them and bring them with you!  Can’t make it?  Catch the podcast — it’s a social media thing!

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