From Tyler: Today’s post is from a friend of mine, Chris Nye. I had the chance to interact with Chris a few months ago at a conference and can assure you he is the real deal. I’ve been trying to get a chance to feature Chris’ writing on here for a while, and I’m excited to share this post with you.
“What’s on your mind?”
Most of our time on Facebook is spent trying to understand what people are saying to us, but we forget how much Facebook is saying to us.
For as much as I try to ignore that dastardly right hand side of my Facebook feed, I can’t. “Want to change the world?” an ad says. “Find your calling,” says another. Not to mention the ever-growing Christian dating/marriage ads that seem to find their way into the annoyingly un-deletable column where all of these advertisements are placed.
And then there’s Facebook’s constant, central question found every day, every time you log on: “What’s on your mind?” It’s the question that made me squirm in my seat as a teenager at my mother’s dinner table; the question that I never wanted to answer growing up for fear of actually communicating with my parents. I don’t know, and who cares?
But not anymore. All of a sudden our generation has embraced this question. We are very, very content with sharing what’s on our mind with not just our families, but with everyone who’s willing to listen. In fact, many of my friends block their parents in order to share their status updates exclusively with their friends (perhaps that’s a whole different article topic all together). The point is, Facebook’s question has opened us up as a generation—we will share what’s on our minds, even if it just came to it seconds after seeing the blank slate of our status bar.
Some friends and I were recently talking about all of this—about broadcasting all our ideas onto the Internet—the limited editing that occurs, the quickness at which we fall in love with an idea that crosses our brains, and how we publish something with such ease that remains in one “space” forever. It’s all so…easy.
To “publish” comes from a Middle English root word meaning, “to make public.” That’s what the publishing industry is all about: to make ideas, people, and stories public—to bring them out into the light of the common person’s knowledge scope. That knowledge scope, however, has broadened dramatically and we are now in a place where anyone can make anything public to almost everyone everywhere.
This conversation I had with my friends turned to how we communicate things we’re learning about God and how the “publish” or “post” or “tweet” button gives the idea a type of permanence and championing. After Tweeting something we sense a type of authority above it simply because we just authored it. It’s there. Forever…ish. And people recognize you as thoughtful and sort of sharp if you Tweet the right thing and get a good amount of retweets. You learn something about life, or hear something in a sermon and you post it immediately because, hey, it’s on your mind. Your friends or followers “like” it, comment on it, or retweet it. Instantly, you feel good about it all and never have to revisit that thought again. You said it, the people liked it, and that about does it.
Or does it?
I realize how easy this is: you feel convicted by an eternal truth, you write it down and share it publicly. That’s not bad, but it’s the next move that ruins us: we then make the dangerous but easy step of convincing ourselves that by tweeting or sharing it online, we have mastered it and do not have to do anything else, namely, actually obeying it.
Earlier today I was preparing a sermon on the Good Samaritan. In studying and meditating on it all morning, I began forming some thoughts. As I began to learn from Jesus, I started to craft a tweet that I thought would really hit home with people: “The love for others that Jesus is looking for is compassionate: it suffers alongside another person.” Pretty good, huh? But as I looked at what I had written out I thought to myself, is this something I have authority on right now? I have certainly learned a lot about love in my life, but I found the message of the Good Samaritan deeply convicting. The statement I had crafted was a heavy thing to obey. To create a sermon around this concept means that I can share with my people the work the Lord is doing in me and through me as I work towards obedience in the name of Jesus. But we cannot communicate those deep things in 140 characters; we just put it out there all by itself.
Think it. Tweet/Blog/Status Update it. Boom. Mastered. Never have to think about it again. We get “likes” and retweets without ever having to provide any evidence of obeying the truth we so eloquently shared. And yet, we find ourselves walking on dangerous ground: just because we share a truth does not mean that it has changed our life, that it has sunk in at all to our deepest places. Sharing a truth can contribute towards our obedience, but it is not our obedience.
It seems like Tweets and status updates have become the new bumper sticker: All the right language without any accountability for obeying our stated convictions.
It’s true; we are works in progress, unfinished sculptures in the hands of the Potter. We certainly cannot wait to completely master obedience of a truth before we share it, but social media has provided us with a strange escape from obedience, hasn’t it? For in the span of time it takes to retweet a deep truth, do we really have the time to ask how that could affect our behavior? In the age of blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, we really do not need to obey in order to be heard. And this leaves us in a place more dangerous than disobedience: apathy.
Chris Nye is a pastor and writer living in Portland, OR with his wife, Ali. Connect on Twitter: @chrisnye