I am on Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn and Netlog solely out of respect for those who have invited me to connect. Recently however something happened that has caused me to meditate more deeply on the power of social media.
A couple of weeks ago we were in Adelaide catching up with some of Donna’s relatives. This involved meeting several of her nieces whom I had not seen since their infancy. Within a few minutes they rushed me onto the computer as a Facebook friend.
The day after we returned home, Donna said to me, “Did you see that woman in Adelaide airport about my age who had such a low dress on?” I had seen this highly exposed lady, and sensed she was connected to something I had been praying about earlier that morning concerning the drawing power of Facebook. A few minutes later I received an email from a friend, Religion Starts 2012 As Facebook’s Top Engaging Trend, outlining that 6 of the top 10 most interactive sites globally are religious (4 of these are Christian, 2 Islamic.). I took this as a definite confirmation of the subject I had just been praying over.
Bible teacher Derek Prince once asked, “Under what conditions did the wheat and the weeds in Jesus’ parable grow up together (Matt 13:24-30)? His answer was, “The same conditions.” Prince was saying that by looking at what is happening in wider culture we can see an image of what the Lord is seeking to restore in the Church. He believed that society’s emphasis on freedom of expression in the 60’s was being used by the Spirit to bring about a charismatic renewal in the Church. Applying this methodology today, what can we discern about the purposes of God in the light of Facebook?
Many people today are vastly “over exposed”; not only perpetually communicating on Facebook or Twitter, but on smart phones, iPads, email, blogs and so on. Behind this is a deep search asking, “Who am I?” We are in the midst of the greatest crisis in history concerning what it means to be human. In our affluent culture many people are endlessly trying to find themselves and are driven by a deep subconscious belief that somehow by exposing themselves to the maximum number of other individuals they will be able to achieve greater self-understanding. In the wisdom of God this is a strategic opportunity for the revelation of Jesus as the key to all authentic self-knowledge.
Exposed to God
Bonhoeffer’s famous poem “Who am I?” ends climactically with the telling phrase, “Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.” As Paul says, “now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God” (Gal 4:9cf. 1 Cor 8:3). The greatest thing is to know that you are known by God. This is the key to all real self-knowledge and it can be a truth that accompanies us through every circumstance of life; when people are looking, listening, posting, texting and when they are not. The testimony of the indestructibility of our adoption in Christ is the answer to the identity crisis of our time. In this context Facebook can become a page for God; but only through the paradox of the cross.
Jesus’ puzzled cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34) contains within itself all human puzzlement over identity. The only person who always had perfect clarity about who he was is now on the cross at a total loss to know who God knows him to be. To bear our sin meant for Jesus the death of all true self-knowledge. The resurrection however reverses this, here Jesus is irreducibly “declared to be the Son in power” (Rom 1:4). The complete destruction of self identity and its perfect restoration in Jesus’ life experience contains the gospel to be communicated in the culture of our time.
Exposed for God
Since the Christian life is all about “the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 19:10) the various forms of social media provide exciting new opportunities for exposing who-we-are-in-Christ by simply sharing who we are as human beings being recreated in the likeness of God (Eph 4:24). As we cannot possibly understand who Jesus truly is without hearing his lament from the cross and seeing his resurrection, so others cannot truly know who we are without seeing and hearing about all our struggles and failures, as well as our victories. This will mean at times exposing ourselves for the glory of God in ways which will lead to misunderstanding and ridicule. Mature believers understand this to be a part of the cost of the gospel and the appointed way in which Facebook can become a page for God.