I’m not intending to be sacrilegious, but I think the headline for this article reflects a legitimate question. If Jesus were walking the planet today, would He avail Himself of all the latest technological tools to take His message to the masses? Would He Facebook, tweet, text, and email? Would He have a Web site or use a blog to share His thoughts with His followers? Would He take advantage of the wireless world to save the lost and dying one? Would He podcast or video stream His messages around the globe? Would He have an email account? Could you send Him a text prayer request? Or would Jesus pronounce woes on those who waste away their hours skyping, posting, surfing, texting, downloading, emailing, shopping, even doing their Bible studies – online? The truth is, I don’t have a clue whether Jesus would condemn or condone Facebook or any other online social media. But I suspect He would take real issue with some of the things His children post, read, share, and do online. He would probably have something to say about the amount of time some of us wile away online, in front of the tube, on our phones, or even behind the screen of our e-readers. When it comes to the assortment of media options available to us; including TV, video games, online movies, digital music streaming, e-books, podcasts, and more, I suspect Jesus might have a few words of warning. I don’t believe He would be impartial or without opinion. But I also don’t think Jesus would be black and white in regard to His thoughts on Christians and their use of media.
Reality is, we live in a media-saturated society. It’s hard to get away from it. We stay constantly connected, with our phones always on, email always available, and the latest news and entertainment right at our fingertips. We can take advantage of everything from downloadable movies and music to smart phones with more features, memory and processing power than the first laptop I owned. We’re no longer just wired, we’re wireless. We can go online from virtually anywhere and find just about anything – both good and bad. Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. And we’re not content to just have a connection, it’s got to be the fastest available. Dishes, DSL, and other high-speed data connections make the virtual world a 24/7 high-speed reality. Never before has mankind had so many options available to it so quickly and easily. Communication, information, entertainment, education, commerce – they’re all at our fingertips and all fighting for a slice of for our attention.
So what’s a good Christian to do? What should our relationship with media be? And we’re talking about everything from electronic media such as cell phones and computers to the new social media like Facebook and Twitter. There’s the entertainment media, which includes television, movies and music, as well as video games. And don’t forget the arts – painting, sculpture, plays, and musicals. Some would say that we should avoid it all like the plague. They view it all as dangerous, deceptive, and no place for a God-fearing Christian to venture. There are those who refuse to Facebook. Some refuse to even go online at all. Many have decided to get rid of their cable TV subscriptions, while others have chosen to toss the TV itself. We did that for a period of time when our kids were younger – in an effort to protect them. Instead of watching TV, we spent the time playing games, reading books, and just being together as a family. Then we found out that when our kids went to their friends’ houses, they were spending all their time glued to the tube until we came to pick them up. It seems that we had done little to diminish the TV’s appeal; we had simply denied them access. And they learned to get their TV fix another way. For us, removing the TV didn’t remove the desire. We discovered that this would be far more difficult task that required more than a simple demonization of the TV.
So what should be our relationship with media? How are we to interact with it? What role should it play in our lives? Could it be redeemable and useable for kingdom causes? Does a song have to have Christian lyrics to be worth listening to? Is The Passion by Mel Gibson the only non-PG movie a Christian should see? Should any God-fearing Christian dare to show his face on Facebook? And do all the books approved for Christian consumption have to be about missionaries and theology?
Media is here to stay. We can attempt to run from it, ignore it, isolate ourselves from it, or we can jump to the other extreme and become obsessed with it. I think we would all be amazed at just how much time we dedicate to some form of media in our lives on a daily basis. Whether it’s reading the paper in the morning, a novel before you go to bed at night, watching your favorite TV shows in the evening or checking out all your friends’ latest Facebook posts; we all interface with media on a regular basis. Some of our kids spend hours texting on their phones, listening to music on their digital music players, or playing video games. And now, thanks to the latest advancements in technology, they can stream movies and TV shows right to their phones – any time, day or night
The question isn’t whether we’re going to have anything to do with media. We can’t avoid it. It’s really whether we’re going to use it wisely and for God’s glory. Or are we going to allow it to control and consume us? Have we allowed these things to become replacements for God – little idols that we turn to for comfort, encouragement, pleasure and deliverance from the cares of the day? Do we spend more time online than we do in God’s Word? Do we get more enjoyment from watching TV than being with God? Do we know more about Facebook “friends” we’ve never met than we do about God our Father? I know, that’s a low blow. But the truth is, we have more to distract us from God than any other generation that came before us. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things. There is nothing sinful about watching TV, going to the movies, surfing the Internet, texting on your cell phone, enjoying music, reading a book, or playing a video game. Of course, some of the content is godless and immoral. But much of it is not. The real issues are how we use it, how much time we devote to it, and how much we allow it to control us.
In his letter written to the Corinthian Christians, Paul told them, “Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT). Could we not apply that same word of wise counsel to the world of media? If you are going to use Facebook, can you do it in such a way that God is glorified? That doesn’t mean that every post has to be a Scripture verse or a link to a Christian Web site or daily devotional. It could be a simple post about the beauty of God’s creation, your love for your family, or gratitude expressed for a blessing in your life. Can you somehow redeem the time and make sure that what you are posting brings Him honor? Would He be pleased? Will you use this tool wisely, carefully and creatively? What about TV? Is it totally irredeemable? Some would argue it is. But is there a way that you can use TV and the movies your family watches in such a way that it actually brings you closer together, instead of driving you apart? Can you be more careful about what your family watches and how many hours they spend doing it? Do you have any idea what your kids are downloading on to their phones, what kind of music they listen to, or the kinds of video games they play? What kind of texts do they send or receive? What do they post on the social media sites? This is not about advocating a big brother mentality. It is about being wise parents who are aware of the dangers inherent in some of the media that is out there.
We can have a healthy relationship with the media in our lives. It requires balance. It demands vigilance and an increased level of awareness. Finally, it begs for us as Christians to play a more prominent part in the culture of our day. To learn to use these new tools creatively and effectively. When the idea of the Internet was first introduced, many Christians rejected it as a potentially destructive tool that would open up a Pandora’s box of problems. But others began to envision the possibilities this new resource offered. Today, I am able to utilize the Internet for everything from Bible study and lesson preparation for weekly Bible studies I teach to blogging on insights I receive while reading through the Old Testament. Every day I post a link on Facebook to that blog, inviting all my “friends” to visit and see what God is teaching me as I read through the Word. We’ve created a special Web site for men designed to provide them with a wide array of helpful tools and resources to assist them in their spiritual walk. We are trying to creatively utilize all the capabilities the Internet offers to design a user-friendly resource for men that gives them videos to watch, audio lessons to listen to, recommended reading to download, and guides to going through these studies with other men. In short, we’re taking the technology and attempting to use it for good and God’s glory. We’re trying to think outside the box and reach men who may never darken the door of a weekly men’s Bible study. Every week we use email and e-newsletters to communicate with our men and keep them informed about upcoming studies and events. And we want to explore other ways to make media work more effectively for us.
Would Jesus be on Facebook? I have no idea. Would He blog? I don’t have clue. But I do know that Jesus would do everything in His power to spread the Good News of the gospel as fast and as far as He possibly could. We have at our disposal an array of tools that could be used for kingdom purposes. Rather than allow them to control us and distract us from our primary mission, we can use them to accomplish it. Let’s get creative. Let’s get busy turning our Facebook friends into Facebook brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s redeem the time. Let’s utilize these resources for the cause of Christ. Let’s take the words of Paul to heart. “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17-18 NLT).