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

Judah, Not Joseph

I enjoy the Christmas season. I enjoy the lights, the music, the presents, my family and friends. I enjoy the hope and joy that saturate the season.

What gets me most excited and stoked for Christmas however is when I dig into Scripture and think about how the arrival of Jesus is the answer to so many promises that God made to His people throughout the Bible. I know I have written about that at length in several other blogs throughout December, so let me today focus us in on an aspect of the Christmas story you may have missed. I know that I missed it until this year.

God uses the line of Judah, not Joseph.

Alright, maybe you don’t see that as mind-blowing. Well let me show you how that above statement is one of the greatest acts of God’s grace I see in the Scriptures.

We have to start in the genealogy of Jesus, and then we will go back in time to the book of Genesis.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, – Matthew 1:2-3

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first chapter of Matthew and just glossed over this powder keg of God’s mercy. Abraham has Isaac, Isaac has Jacob, and Jacob has twelve sons. The most prominent of these sons is Joseph. Ever heard of him? In Genesis 37, 39-50 we read all about him. He was an incredible man of faith who trusted in the sovereign plan of God in his life, despite being sold into slavery, accused of sexual sins, and forgotten in a jail. He rose to great fame in Egypt, being used by God to save the people of Egypt and the people of God from starvation during a famine. Although he was not a perfect man (just a reminder that the figures in the OT are not primarily moral examples to follow), he was a great one.

You would think that God would choose to use his line to one day bring the Savior. I mean, if it was up to me, that’s who I choose. I choose the man who followed me faithfully, not one of the brothers who sold their own brother into slavery. That’s not what God does however.

What God does is far more merciful, gracious, and beautiful than what I would do.

God uses Judah.

If you noticed before, I said Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37, 39-50. That’s because Genesis 38 is all about Judah. This seems confusing at first glance, as it detracts from the story that is happening with Joseph in Egypt. In Genesis 38, we are going to see the egregious sin of Judah. This is not PG-rated, and there’s no wonder we never talk about it in church (although we should).

Instead of typing out the entire chapter, let me give you the highlights of this man’s sins, and feel free to take a glance at this chapter yourself. It is dim and depressing, but there is light coming.

First off, we see real quick that Judah has left the fellowship of his brothers (v. 1). This isn’t explicitly sinful, but it sure sets him off in a dangerous direction, as he ends up living with Canaanites instead of the people of God (v. 2). Fast-forward a bit, and he has a daughter-in-law named Tamar. When Tamar’s husband passes away, we get an awkward fly on the wall account of Judah’s sons’ sins against her. After God kills Onan because of his wicked actions, Judah sends away Tamar (v. 11), essentially abandoning her in her time of financial and relational need.

Tamar concocts a plan to get back into the family, to have her right to a husband out of Judah’s family given to her. She plans to make herself appear as a prostitute and impregnate her own father-in-law. Wowza.

Not the typical Christmas story, no way.

Pause and think. Tamar had some understanding that this plan would work. That tells you a little bit about Judah. A prostitute would be a desire of his. This likely wasn’t the first time he had a sexual escapade with an unknown prostitute.

The plan works. Judah blatantly gives in to sexual sin, although he does not know that it’s with his own daughter-in-law.

Tamar would eventually give birth to two sons, twins, named Perez and Zerah. The same Perez that we saw back in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

Let that sink in.

God would choose to send His Son through the line of Judah the sexually broken and vile (we can cut him a little slack however, since Judah was one of the more upstanding of the lot in their dealings with Joseph at the close of the book), rather than through the line of Joseph who faithfully followed God even in the midst of intense suffering.

Let that sink in y’all!

Matthew 1 and Genesis 38 are screaming at us the exact same thing!

It’s not about us!

It’s not about how good we are (or how good we think we are)!

God gives His amazing grace and mercy to the most unlikely of people!

This Christmas, do you feel unworthy of the gift of God’s grace that covers every single one of your sins? Do you feel unworthy of the fact that God has chosen to richly bless you this Christmas not just with physical and familial things but also spiritual things that we cannot even fathom?

If so, look to Judah.

See his sins, see his unworthiness.

And then look to the Lion of Judah.

Look to the one who took away ALL of your sins and who now resides with God the Father on high.

This Christmas, I’m most excited about celebrating the fact that God has poured out his unbelievable grace on a sinner like me.

That’s what Christmas is ultimately all about.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach