The world of Facebook has its own language and culture. And lies. To someone new to social media, it’s like touring around a foreign country. You’re not sure what to consume, where to go, or who to talk to. And to make matters worse, you’re not sure what’s real and what’s not.
One of the reasons social media works so well is because we all like to talk about ourselves. It’s a basic, universal fact of communication. The difference in social media is this: we can talk about ourselves to a massive crowd inside our minuscule screens, feel our confidence balloon as “likes” multiply like rabbits, and—thank goodness!—no one is there to rudely interrupt us by talking about themselves.
One of the challenges for most Christians is making sure that no one finds out just how much they struggle with sin. There are unwritten rules about this. It’s ok, for example, when people say in unison on Sunday morning, “I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed,” but the gathering would inhale a collective gasp if Bob announced, immediately afterward, “Yeah, I got drunk last week, yelled at my kids, and almost punched my wife when she suggested I lay off the bottle for a while.” Um, no, Bob, we try and keep things more or less generic here. No need to get so real. And there are unwritten rules about not disclosing how Sandy’s singing voice reminds you of fingernails on the chalkboard, Jerome’s children act like spoiled brats in church, and you have a years-long grudge against three members of the church council. You put on your game face for church. You act the part. You smile and say “Good Morning” and “Peace to you” to everyone. When you enter God’s house, you leave your real struggles, real temptations, and real hurts at home.
This is bad enough, when being a real sinner in a real church breaks unwritten rules. But in recent years we have doubled the challenge. Now, we have social media, which enables us to glamorize our Christianity even more. As we chill on our couch after a day at the office, watching “Dancing with the Stars” and sipping an aged bourbon, we can pull out our MacBook Air and change our profile picture to an Arabic letter that shows our deep, spiritual fellowship with believers on the other side of the world who are being raped, crucified, and beheaded. In our status brag-box we can type pithy quotes from famous theologians we’ve honestly never taken the time to study. If we’re not too busy watching “NFL’s Wildest Cheerleader Wardrobe Malfunctions” or an online porn video, we can post a link to an article that castigates the moral sewer that America has become. And, most importantly, we can unfriend or block any fellow Christians who challenge us, take us to task, have shady pasts, or just plain annoy us. Yes, in the one holy Christian and apostolic Facebook church, we can manufacture a spiritual profile of ourselves that is sin-free and righteousness-rich. When we log on to social media, we can leave our real struggles, real temptations, and real hurts off-line, lest someone discover that our virtual reality is not the reality of our life at all.
A little bit of vulnerability amongst Christians would go a long way toward giving a witness to the world about what the church is really here for. Jesus didn’t found a gym where we can go and flex our biblical biceps in front of mirrors so everyone see how hard we’ve worked at being holy. He didn’t create a virtual spiritual reality where we can gather together with like-minded virtual reality users and talk about things of virtually little importance. Christ founded a church, which is a little bit hospital, little bit mental ward, little bit weekly reunion of sinners who’ve made a mess of their lives. It’s a place where self-proclaimed righteous people who have it all together will be bored because there’s nothing for them there. Church is for real sinners who really sin with other real sinners, for here they find the Friend of Sinners, Jesus the Christ.
“Unfriend” is not in His vocabulary. He befriends even the worst, calling all to repentance, eating with those eaten up by guilt, feeding them the food of forgiveness in a meal that He Himself prepared from the materials of His own body. He beckons you in this church to bring to Him your real struggles, real temptations, real hurts. And He will give you real peace, real love, real healing. With Jesus, you can be vulnerable, for He is the last one to turn away any sinner.
In the one holy Christian and apostolic church, let’s do the same.