Clap Back Christians

The fruit of the Spirit is wit, argumentation, debate, narcissism, opinions, clap backs. Against such things there is no law. 

When I survey my heart, our churches, and fellow believers on social media, these things seem to be the core of the Christian way of life.

Long gone are the ways of Jesus that are outlined in Galatians 5, which I woefully misquoted just a moment ago. Instead of being loving, patient, and kind, we bicker incessantly over the most minuscule things. Instead of being self-controlled, we have to get our opinion out about everything at every moment. Man alive, I fight this in my heart (never perfectly) every day. I see something in the news, or on social media, and I just have to have a good response to it.

What has become of our witness? Is our rudeness, flippancy, and sarcasm really drawing people to Jesus (not to mention drawing them to come to a different conclusion in regard to any debate we are facilitating)?

Now, I am not saying that being vocal on Facebook or Instagram or whatever form of social media you’re on in regard to faith or even other things is detrimental to the Kingdom of God.

But the way we go about sharing these things is so crucially important.

If you scoured my social media, you’d see (I think) very little regarding hot button issues. Last Summer I got into a fit of anger and posted a vehement, unfair take on gun control. Since then, I’ve felt led by God to keep my opinions to myself, to private discussions, to gentle conversations. You’ll never see me posting about politics. Come talk to me about it, sure. But you’re not going to get a vocal, public, social media take on these things.

I honestly am proud of myself, that by God’s grace I haven’t said a word about Covid-19 policies. I’ve just said that life sucks sometimes and we can cling to Jesus.

For whatever reason, we prize the well-argued posts. I’ve seen countless Christans (including me) say things on social media that they would never say to someone’s face.

Souls are not won through social media arguments.

Souls are won by living in such a way that illuminates the kindness, gentleness, love, and patience of Jesus. Souls are won by being self-controlled. Not every debate is worth getting into. Not very conversation needs to get a response from us.

I fall into the habit of thinking that I need to vocalize my voice into every topic, every scenario, every hot button issue.

I think, “If I don’t, who will?”

Maybe, just maybe, we can let things slide.

Now, I’m on social media often. My side ministry of Roach Ramblings is social-media driven. I’m on it. But social media is ultimately not the place for the transformation of lives through argumentation.

I love the take that Jesus engaged the false teachings of the 1st century world during His life and ministry. I love that take because it misses the mark (in my opinion, which is often in fact wrong). The mission of Jesus (as shown to us in the Gospel accounts) was not to debate the religious leaders of the day or to correct heresy. Now, these arguments happened as people were stupid enough to engage God Himself in debate. But Jesus did not seek them out in a malicious, self-absorbed way. The God of the universe in human flesh did not feel the need to correct every errant belief, every errant political view (He in fact doesn’t seem to care much at all about this besides teaching submission and humility). He did not go about the countryside engaging false teachings or interpretations of the Torah.

He went about preaching the Kingdom of God. He went about healing the sick. He went about performing miracles. He wasn’t sarcastic. He wasn’t clapping back at others.

I see in us the tendency to disrespect our elders who we disagree with. Gone are the days of charitable disagreement. Rather we must now be quick to degrade, whether intentionally or unintentionally those who we disagree with.

Church, enough is enough.

Brother or sister in Christ, enough is enough.

May we live with a profound kindness. A profound gentleness. A profound self-control. May our church’s false gods of sarcasm, wit, and argumentation come down. May we again uplift the qualities of the Spirit of God in our lives and in our words, digital or otherwise.

Let me close with the real fruit of the Spirit as written down in Galatians 5.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Redeeming Social Media

I’m hesitant to write anything about social media these days because, for the most part, I don’t participate in any of it. But for the sake of transparency, here is my short history of social media.

I’ve been on most major social media platforms since 2006, which is when I got my first Facebook account. I’ve had a few Twitter accounts, a couple Instagram accounts, and I had a mad SnapChat streak going with a friend for over half a calendar year. But as of now, I only have a minimal Facebook page and a LinkedIn. So that’s that.

Now before I move on, I want to say I believe most anything* can be redeemed for the Kingdom of God. I believe our work, our rest, our play, our entertainment, our habits, our hobbies can be used for that sake of loving God and loving others. (*I say “most anything” because I’m not sure how explicitly sinful activities can be redeemed, although I know God can bring about, in a way, redemption out of those activities.)

I want to also lay this foundational assumption of the way everything works. I believe everything, yes, everything, forms us. Everything forms us, molds us, makes us. From morning to night, from night to morning, we are forming and being formed by everything that’s around us. For example, when I make a salad, the salad is forming my body (in a healthy way). But when I make a bowl of ice cream, the ice cream is forming my body (in a, let’s say, different way).

James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love is where I stole (acquired) this idea. So if you want to read more about this idea about everything as formative, then buy it and read it for yourself. In fact, it’s so good I would be willing to buy it for you.

OK, so far we determined:

  1. I have used and currently do use social media.
  2. I believe in the ability for Jesus to redeem most anything in creation.
  3. Everything in the world forms us to some end in some way.

Now, let’s talk about two distinct yet related ways that social media forms you. And I am going to use Instagram as a clear example. This is not to raise it higher or drag it lower than any other forms of social media. It’s just a way to make this all more concrete.

Two of the many ways a social media platform like Instagram forms you are: (1) It increases your desire for novelty, and (2) it increases your desire for sensuality.

First, Instagram is intentionally designed to cause you to become addicted to it. This is not-so-subtly because of advertisements. Instagram makes money when it sells ad spaces. Economics lesson over. Everything about the platform is meticulously crafted to usher you into an mindless habit of swiping and tapping and swiping and tapping and swiping and tapping. We become Olympian-like in our ability to swipe and tap so much that we do with ease it while operating an oversized bullet moving at 75 miles per hour.

How? In short, Instagram plays into our biological and neurological essence to trigger positive emotions based on novelty. We desire new pictures. It’s that simple. We want to see something new every time we open the application. If you saw the same picture on the top of your Instagram feed whenever you opened the app, you would be less inclined to open the app.

Second, Instagram as a visual media is particularly designed to play into our natural, sensual desires. OK, Economics lesson again: Sex sells. Economic lesson over. You know it’s true. Just watch literally anything. I mean there are too many examples. You were probably lured into tapping on an advertisement just five minutes ago because of some really good looking guy or gal wearing sunglasses that you can’t tell if they’re taking them off or putting them on. But woh those are some good looking shades.

To be sure, I am not immune to these “ideas” because I’m aware of them. I think studies have shown the opposite can be true in many cases. I might be more inclined to succumb to social media tricks simply because I am aware of what’s going on. To be honest, that’s one of the many reasons I don’t have many social media accounts anymore. It’s simply too enjoyable.

So what does all of this have to do with following Jesus?

Well, I’ll tell you by referencing Matthew 5:27-28:

“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28

Adultery?

Yes, I’m talking about adultery. Why?

In Russell Moore’s Storm-Tossed Family, he mentions briefly that affairs are often had because of a desire for novelty. Yes, novelty, especially in all things, obviously, sexual.

So, let’s just say novelty does play a large role in affairs. And let’s say based on Jesus’s words that affairs are not just having sex with someone who is not your spouse. Affairs can be in your heart, and they’re not just restricted to married people either. This is some difficult stuff to consider.

But what does this have to do with social media, including Instagram?

It’s this:

Everything forms us. Instagram forms us by engaging, rewarding, and enhancing our innate desires for novelty and sensuality. Desires for novel sensual experiences drive affairs. Therefore, Instagram is forming us to have affairs.

And recall, affairs can be had in your heart whether or not you’re married.

If you are serious about following Jesus, you need to deeply consider what he has to say about how to resist the temptation to sexual sin.

Jesus also says this:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” – Matthew 5:29-30

Please hear me out on this. I am not saying every Jesus follower needs to “cut off their hand,” i.e., delete their social media accounts or toss your smartphone to be recycled properly. I am saying if you claim to follow Jesus, and I pray I’m doing the same thing–if there is a log in my eye in this, please point it out for me–please consider his intense hatred of sexual sin and his command to cut yourself off from anything that might cause you to sin.

Can you use social media, namely Instagram, to bring about redemption? Yes. Certainly, please do that. Please do that for the millions of people on Instagram. Please exemplify Jesus there. Post pictures of Bible verses. Post pictures of you enjoying creation. Post pictures of your small group sharing a meal. Post pictures of you spending time with your spiritual family and biological family. Please. Be light and salt on Instagram.

But I equally beg you to consider if Instagram is worth having if it sends your whole body to hell.

For me, my proclivity to lust and greed and jealousy was too much to have an Instagram. It’s too much for me to watch certain movies and TV shows and YouTube videos. I’m a weaker brother. I really am.

And if you are strong enough to bring about God’s Kingdom online and be a faithful witness, stay on social media. But if you are weak like me in these regards, please delete your account.

Social media is a discipleship issue. It’s a spiritual issue. It’s a life or death issue.

Whatever you choose, I pray your faith would increase ten-fold as you follow Jesus.
– Matt Welborn

Making The Bed

Throughout Christian history, the people of God have been formed, built up in, and strengthened by creeds and confessions of the faith. These were recited in families, church fellowships, and communities as a way to be catechized (taught) in the historic Christian faith.

We are also catechized by our world. Our culture is telling us all of the time how we are to behave, what we are to live for. There are daily habits that we all feel drawn towards and pulled into that are the result of subconscious daily formation via the world we live in. The biggest right now is easily the most obvious (I feel like a broken record saying this). We are taught to put everything on social media, to fight the silence by staring at our phones, and to put up a front whether that is our intention or not.

The most eye-opening event when it came to this was when I first got back from Phoenix. My fiancée Jamie and I went to dinner with one of my closest childhood friends and his wife. He asked me how my year in Phoenix was and when I opened up about the difficulties that I had at the church he was genuinely surprised saying that ‘everything you’ve put on Facebook made it seem like a great experience’. This wasn’t done intentionally by me at all, in fact via this blog I made a lot of my struggles at the church public. Yet my friends back home saw a picturesque experience where it was quite the opposite in many ways.

My generation does a poor job of handling this obsession with social media. However, the former generation doesn’t seem to fair too much better. I remember being at a men’s Bible study in Phoenix where every person around the table was on their phone at some point during the forty minute experience (except for me and my roommate Matt). The call of their individual business or family responsibilities was in that moment greater than the call of God’s Word. This is not a millennial problem. This is an everyone problem. We have all been formed, discipled, and catechized into thinking that to put our phones up for even a short period of time is to make ourselves unavailable to the world and thus perhaps less important.

I feel the weight of this at any family event. Is it enough to enjoy the treasured moments with siblings and parents, or am I obliged to post some picture of it so that everyone else can know just how much fun I had? I have been discipled into believing that without making my moment with family public I am not enjoying life to its fullest. When boiled down, that’s exactly what we are being taught. The fullness of life is found in making every private or intimate family or relationship moment public for other people to like, comment on, etc. This has caused people I know to literally Facebook Live their kitchen meal prep. I know others who make public their children’s tantrums, fits, problems. I know others who make their kids’ successes just as public. Previous generations had bumper stickers, we have Facebook posts. I myself struggle with making private moments of hilarity or doofusness public on social media. We have been discipled into believing that making a public spectacle of private moments is normal, necessary, and fulfilling.

In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren talks about how the start of our days are incredibly important when it comes to how we live and view our days.

Push as hard as the age that pushes against you. – Flannery O’Connor

Warren offers the making of one’s bed as a way to start our days, as opposed to incessant phone use. But it can be any number of liturgical and rhythmic routines that can orient our minds and hearts toward godliness rather than the lies of our age.

Evaluate what you do with your day, especially in the stillness and quiet moments. More often than not, where you go in the quiet is what you’re living for. You are being formed in ways that are beneficial to your spiritual growth, as well as ways that are not. Think through your routines and habits.

I know that when I conclude my day in prayer with Jamie, I am prone to wake up more spiritually aware, more focused on eternal matters in the day ahead. I know that when I spend two hours watching TV or playing Playstation, I am prone to head into the next day needing to be entertained, focused on the here and now. Our practices throughout our days establish us. It is thus incredibly important that we don’t drift through our days unaware of what we’re living for.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2 

My mind isn’t renewed if I give myself no time to sit with God and do just that.

Be aware of what you live for.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Letters Of Encouragement

Jamie was visiting this weekend, and as we prepared to leave my parents’ home in Wichita Falls, I came across a large manilla envelope with my name on it. I had no idea what it was or where it came from. Since it had my name on it though, I went ahead and opened it. stamps

Inside were dozens of letters. They all came from team members and coworkers from my summer in Salt Lake City back in 2014. It was weird, eye-opening, enlightening, encouraging, and a little confusing reading letters written to my former self. I pored over them, laughing at old memories, reminding myself of the ways that God moved in me and others that summer in Salt Lake City (I also remember that I selfishly chose not to write anyone else letters. Boo hiss 2014 me).

On my 16th birthday, my dad gave me a supremely special gift. As a present, he had a couple dozen men write me letters about what it meant to be a man. In these letters were timeless truths from the experiences that they had been through. It was an honor (although at the time I didn’t realize this) to read handwritten letters from these men who told me what it looked like to walk with God in every area of my life whether that be in friendships, marriage, vocation, or family. Texts just wouldn’t have meant the same to me, not to mention they’d be automatically deleted off my phone after 30 days.

That’s an aspect of the Christian life that I think we miss in our current day and age. There’s nothing like a letter from a friend. There really isn’t. At least in my experience. There is something about receiving a letter from someone you love, taking into account the time they took out of their day to write you. Texts, e-mails, voicemails, Facebook messages. All of these forms of communication can be used for encouragement and strengthening the body of Christ for sure, but there is something about a handwritten letter that takes it up a notch.

I know that 2nd and 3rd John came long before our modern communication techniques, but they are indeed personal letters from John to the ‘elect lady and her children’ (possibly a local congregation of believers) and to ‘Gaius” respectively. These are personal letters. From a man to his friends. From one follower of Christ to others.

These are notes snatched from the every-day correspondence of an Apostle – G.G. Findlay

Some scholars believe that John introduced himself in 2 John as ‘the elder’ instead of ‘the apostle’ because it is a little bit more affectionate as a title. This is just a little more confirmation about the nature of these letters. This may show us that he is writing as a friend and fellow Christ-follower in these letters, more than he’s writing as an authority figure to the church (although he does address doctrine).

This blog is definitely not like what you may be used to reading from me, but I hope I can encourage you to follow in the footsteps of not only the apostles of old, but also countless ministers and Christ-followers who have made it a practice of theirs to write letters to churches and friends. If you’ve got the letter-writing bug as I do, here’s some places to start.

1. The Person/People Who Led You To Christ

Even if you’ve been vocal about your gratitude towards this person(s) in the past, it wouldn’t hurt to write them a letter and remind them just how thankful you are that they had the boldness and courage to share with you the good news of the gospel. Yes, the Lord drew you to Himself, but it took men and women who were instruments of His grace in your life to bring you to salvation. Thank them for what they did.

2. A Non-Believer You Want To Share The Gospel With

Yes, we should be vocal in our conversations with non-believers about our faith (I need to work on this one desperately), but why not write them a letter about how you’ve been praying for them and how the gospel has transformed your life? They may or may not read it, and they may or may not respond. But you can show them just how precious the gospel is to you with a heartfelt note.

3. A Missionary In A Foreign Or Not-So Foreign Land

Write a letter to a church-planter, a missionary overseas, or a missionary in your own backyard. When I worked in Phoenix, I read countless letters of encouragement and prayer directed towards the staff of the church which I was a part of. They were lights in the middle of dark and difficult days of ministry. A letter of encouragement, Scripture, and prayers can go a long way.

4. The Christian Who Is Struggling 

Be careful with this one. If you know of a follower of Christ who is walking through a difficult season, you can write them a letter of encouragement. I say be careful because it’s easy to spout out Scripture without showing compassion or concern for the person you are reaching out to. That being said, a letter of encouragement in the midst of trials can go a long way.

5. Relatives

Write a letter to a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or sibling. Reach out to the family that the Lord has put you in. They may all be saved, or none of them may be saved. Find ways to encourage, equip, and evangelize through handwritten letters to the people who share your family heritage.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I encourage you to walk through it, as will I.

There’s not much gospel in this blog, but I encourage you to put the gospel in letters to family, friends, fellow Christians, and those who don’t yet know Jesus.

Write for His glory.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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