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Facebook and Jesus Part 5

By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted March 20, 2013
RELIGION – I have a tricky elbow and vexing ankle. And although I like to work out and run, I have to be careful and stay within a few parameters. If I run too much, I will get a nagging soreness in my ankle. If I lift too heavy, my elbow will start to cry. It is the body I have. I am otherwise healthy, but given the choice, I could deal without having to worry about angering these two parts of my body. You could say I walk on tiptoes to keep them happy.
Now the Bible says that church is a body. It is a great analogy. But as pastor, I know in churches you have plenty of parts of the body that can be troublesome. I mean if you involve yourself in church life, there will be someone who rubs you the wrong way. There will be somebody who you would rather not deal with; somebody who you would love to “un-friend,” and no longer see.
Well the reality of “un-friending” someone only exists in the magical realm of Facebook. God has placed all the people in your church together for a reason. A reason you may not grasp, but each part of that body is there. You are not at luxury to “clean up” your friend list at church.

But in Facebook, you play God. Tim Chester writes that in Facebook “You choose who will be in community with you. You create your own communities of convenience that mean you are never challenged. Or, if you are challenged or relationships become costly, you can just scuttle off to new relationships. As a result, we never grow. We are permanently immature. In cyberspace, no relationship is meaningful and every relationship is expendable. The result is loneliness in the midst of many Facebook ‘friends’. A recent Australian study found that lonely people spend more time on Facebook: ‘One of the most noteworthy findings’, they wrote, ‘was the tendency for neurotic and lonely individuals to spend greater amounts of time on Facebook per day than non-lonely individuals.’”

Facebook also allows you to be big and bad! I routinely witness Facebook conflicts, where people type things about people they would not say to some ones face.  I read this week that “Seventeen per cent of employees in large companies have been reprimanded for words they have written on Facebook.” Facebook allows gossip (excuse me prayer requests) to travel incredibly fast. News of someone’s death can be spread before even immediate family has had the ability to be properly notified.

In the past few years a trend has been for couples at their weading to change their status to “married.” But the sad reality is that Facebook is not great for a marriage. A very alarming trend is Facebook adultery.  I read this week about a lawyer who has dealt with thirty divorce cases in the last year, and Facebook has been implicated in them all.

Tim Chester notes that “Online flirting is leading to real-world relational breakdown. More than a third of UK divorce filings in 2011 contained the word ‘Facebook’. Over 80 per cent of US divorce lawyers say they have seen a rise in divorces involving social networking. K. Jason Krafsky, author of Facebook and Your Marriage, says, ‘Affairs happen with a lightning speed on Facebook.’ Office romances took time to develop, and that meant time to think about what you were doing. Facebook connects us both with old flames and passing contacts whom we might otherwise forget. ‘It puts temptation in the path of people who would never in a million years risk having an affair.’”

Here is my final summation of your use of social media. Please understand that it is powerful. It can be used for good or evil. A razor sharp scalpel in the hands of a skilled surgeon can save lives and do amazing good. A razor sharp scalpel in the hands of my six year old son will only mean disaster.

Proverbs 10:19 says: ‘When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.’ Facebook does not cause sin, but it can accelerate it because it provides so many ways for words to spread so rapidly.

So in conclusion, I will share the final 12 rules for social media as given by Tim Chester. His little book “Will you be my Facebook friend?” is a great read and worth picking up.

1. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say were the people concerned in the room.
2. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t share publicly with your Christian community.
3. Ensure your online world is visible to your offline Christian community.
4. Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self reflects a self-created identity rather than identity in Christ.
5. Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self doesn’t match their offline self.
6. Use social networking to enhance real-world relationships, not to replace them.
7. Don’t let children have unsupervised Internet access or accept as online friends people you don’t know offline.
8. Set limits to the time you spend online and ask someone to hold you accountable to these.
9. Set aside a day a week as a technology ‘Sabbath’ or ‘fast’.
10. Avoid alerts (emails, tweets, texts and so on) that interrupt other activities, especially reading, praying, worshipping, and relating.
11. Ban mobiles from the meal table and the bedroom.
12. Look for opportunities to replace disembodied (online or phone) communication with embodied (face-to-face) communication.

Also, please Facebook or email me (philliphowle@hotmail.com) any ideas you have for our next series. It is a big help and I get grumpy to my proofreader (my wife) when I run out of ideas!  

Pastor Phillip

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