Friday, 19 September 2014
Galatians 2:11-16: Freedom and Facebook
Facebook brings out the worst in me. That’s why I stay away from it.
I realized this shortly after my husband signed me up for it a few years ago. “You need to be on Facebook. Our kids post all the time and you can keep up with their lives that way.” Before I could protest, he had completed the process. After several training tutorials from him, I was capable of logging in. A whole new world opened up to me, and with it a new set of problems that would require a Savior.
For example, I am scrolling down the news feed scanning for the latest from my grown and married children. Along the way I read all sorts of random news and comments about life posted by friends near and far. Some of it rubs me the wrong way. The inner dialogue begins. Why did they post that? Who are they trying to impress? A little farther down I learn about a gathering of friends that took place the night before. Why didn’t they invite me? Who has taken my place in this crowd? Then I see a happy announcement about someone who no longer runs in my circles. Great. No longer do we talk, instead I read about it on FB. There goes that friendship.
I hope you realize that Facebook is not the problem. It is just the provocation. The self-righteousness, sinful judging, pride, alienation, and bitterness were already inside me. Facebook just brought them to the surface.
That’s why I’d rather just withdraw.
What if Peter had posted about the dinner he just skipped? What would Paul have said? Here’s how my Facebook example relates to this passage. Paul was addressing a public problem. The renowned Peter had come to Galatia on an official visit and was openly enjoying meals with the Gentile Christians. But when the ever persistent circumcision party showed up, he bowed to peer pressure and changed his behavior, diplomatically pulling back from the dinner parties.
His absence was just as public as his presence had been. It sent a message, one that directly contradicted the gospel, which is that Jesus had already accepted the Gentile believers on the same basis that he accepted the Jewish ones. Faith in Christ was the only requirement.
Paul confronted Peter publicly because it was a public problem. Peter “stood condemned” not by God, but before Paul and his peers. Other translations read, he “was in the wrong” or he “was without excuse.” The gospel was at stake in a public arena. So Paul called Peter to account both clearly and publicly.
The problem with Facebook is that it’s public, but we use it in private so there’s no accountability. I can say what I want and it stands. Or I can withdraw and no one notices.
But Facebook doesn’t just present problems, it offers potential. It is a public forum where we live out our relationships. As such it offers believers a chance to deny or preserve the truth of the gospel by how we use it.
Freedom from. Freedom for. The good news is that Jesus sets us free. His sinless life and atoning death set us free from the very sins that Facebook has brought to the surface. Do we tend to judge others (and justify ourselves) when they post something we think is stupid or arrogant? Naming our sin and turning to him as the only Judge and Justifier brings complete forgiveness. Do we pull back from relationships in offended silence and bitterness? His blood brings not just forgiveness, but reconciliation to every torn friendship. And of course his blood reminds us of his love. If he loved us so much he would die for us, then we don’t need to go to Facebook to reassure ourselves that we are loved. The acceptance we long for comes from him.
If Jesus sets us free from the sins that are stirred when we check our account, what does he set us free for? To love. What an amazing opportunity we have to keep up with people’s lives and send brief bursts of encouragement. How fun to be a channel for his gospel welcome through this electronic social network.
If this resonates with you, I hope you will be encouraged to bring your use of Facebook from the private into the public sphere. Get some accountability for the temptations you experience. And live out the truth of the gospel there with great joy!