Networking Disciples, part 5
Wine. Food. Sex. Work. Rest. Leisure. Social Networks. What do they all have in common?
All are gifts from God. And all find their purpose for good when enjoyed with self-control. Think of the labels we have for these things when the self is not in control. Drunkenness. Gluttony. Sexual immorality. Workaholism. Laziness. Self-indulgence. And, the new kid on the block – Textication (OK, I just made that up…).
You’ll never find a Bible verse condemning Facebook. But you will find plenty of principles encouraging self-control in all things. That includes social networking. Just as gamblers have been known to leave their little ones in car seats as they feed their addiction inside the casino, so those who have trembling thumbs and minds if they’re not checking their messages every 30 seconds have a problem. Too much is too much.
A friend memorably once told me, before the proliferation of all these digital tools, that the phone was his servant, not his master. When it rang, he could choose to answer it, or not, if something more important was taking place. Yet, when the phone rings, don’t we feel this compulsion to answer? We tend to think that an incoming phone call or text message or request to connect is a compelling call to immediate action. It is not. We are to be in control of our time and attention, not a thousand others who might be pinging us.
Social networks can be like a subtle, incessant, digital prison, sucking our attention into its vortex. We should use them, but not surrender to them. Christ came to set us free. Even from good things.
The high calling of God is to bring everything under His control, and to live out all spheres of life in a way that honors Him. If we cannot sit in front of a computer without wandering over to questionable sites and images, then we need to grow in self-control. If we cannot have a drink with friends without consistently sliding into a state of drunkenness, then we need to grow in self-control. And if we cannot appropriately shut off and on our social networks to attend to God-given responsibilities, then we need to grow in self-control. And, at times, self-control may involve periods and levels of complete self-denial.
We need to be the master of our clicks.
And while we’re discussing what our eyes take in on social networks, let’s talk about profile shopping. You know what I mean. Clicking on a link to some attractive face, then “innocently” rummaging around through on-line pictures, secretly indulging romantic or sexual fantasies. It’s just being friends, we tell ourselves. It’s building a diverse network, we say in self-justification. Get real – often, it’s nothing other than mental masturbation, and the real test of self-control is when you purposefully avoid occasions of temptation even when no-one else is looking. Because God is looking – right to the depths of the motives of the heart. He is to be first and foremost, not people or things or selfish desires.
It might be acceptable in geek circles to be joined at the hand with your smartphone, obsessively connected to others and their bits and bytes. But Jesus Christ calls us to a much higher standard. We are not to be obsessively connected to any lesser entity than Himself. Being conformed to this world involves going with the flow of whatever a bunch of people deem acceptable, even if it “owns” you. That’s the opposite of being His disciple.
You’ll learn to master your desires. Or, they’ll master you. Long before there were computers, the core issue has always been the same.
Social networks have their place, and it may be a bigger or smaller place for you and for me. If other people are hinting (or outright telling you) that you are losing control, then listen. They’re probably right, and they want you back!