The world today is very different from the one that we were in even 10 years ago. Teenagers nowadays share their passwords as a show of affection ... yes, really. We're a generation that has seen immense (particularly technological) change — and have adapted to it pretty seamlessly. We're good at that. We own cell phones, computers; we're on social media; we've joined the digital revolution without really giving it a second thought.
Because when something is as ubiquitous as media and technology, we usually don’t even think about it. It’s like oxygen; we don’t tend to think about how we breathe, about the biological or physiological processes that are going on; we just do it. And for many of us — I’d be so bold as to say all of us — this is the same with media and technology.
• When we watch TV, we aren’t necessarily tuned in to what’s happening as we watch this show or that movie.
• We’re a culture where we “like” somebody’s link or picture or comment on Facebook if it takes our fancy.
• We post things online about our lives, and sometimes about other people’s lives, without thinking about the ramifications or the consequences.
• When we see, hear, or read an ad or even the news, we often just receive it.
We don’t tend to actively think about how something impacts us, or how we interact with it. And we don’t tend to think about how our faith might impact on the role these things play in our lives.
At The District Church, we're going through a series called Mustard Seeds . The background is from Matthew 17:20, where Jesus says, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will be so; and nothing will be impossible for you." We want to talk through what it looks like for us to have faith to move mountains (and it's not a lot!) in our everyday lives.
Yesterday, I talked about the impact of faith on technology, and framed it with the question, "Who is in control?" Technology is all around us, enabling us to do more, to see more, to experience more. The world of media and technology that we inhabit is not in essence good or evil. These things can be used for good or for harm.
• We can send e-mails that build up, or we can send e-mails that gossip and tear down.
• We can be manipulated by the way a news channel spins its reports, or we can seek the truth and point others to it.
• We can allow advertisers to tell us what we’re missing and how their product will make things all better, or we can laugh at the lie that is being told and remember that what we’re all missing, what we all need at root, is a Savior to rescue us from the disease of sin and selfishness.
Sherry Turkle in her book “Alone Together” has this interesting story to tell, and I think it may resonate with many of us:
“I check my e-mail first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night. I have come to learn that informing myself about new professional problems and demands is not a good way to start or end my day, but my practice unhappily continues. I admitted my ongoing irritation with myself to a friend, a woman in her seventies who has meditated on a biblical reading every morning since she was in her teens. She confessed that it is ever more difficult to begin her spiritual exercises before she checks her email; the discipline to defer opening her inbox is now part of her devotional gesture.”
My friend John calls this, “the first battle of the day.” And it’s a battle I fight every morning too. Who is in control? Whose voice do I want to hear first thing in the morning and last thing at night?
It sounds really basic, right? I mean, we're really talking about Facebook and the gospel? E-mail? Twitter? Texting?
Because it's in the basics where the rubber hits the road. It's all well and good to say, "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength," or "Love your neighbor as yourself," but it's in these basics — in the simple things — where that's really worked out. One of the greatest disconnects that people outside the church see, and that people inside the church feel, is the disconnect between Sunday and the rest of the week — that what we hear and say and read and experience on Sundays doesn’t always slide very easily into the molds of Monday through Saturday. Well, it's not just in the big things; actually, it's faith worked out in the small things that in time forms the character that works itself out in the big things as well.
And so it matters what we do in the small things. So what does it look like to live out the gospel in and through your technology-saturated life?
• Maybe it means taking a step back and turning up your sensitivity to how you engage and interact with technology, even just for a week, at first.
• Maybe it means that when you get annoyed with somebody for not being present (because they're checking their phone constantly), you also ask yourself, “Do I do this to other people?”
• Maybe it means building structures or maybe even rules in your life for the ways and the places you utilize technology so that you can be more intentional — both in interpersonal relationships and in your relationship with God.
• Maybe it means that, like Sherry Turkle's friend, you choose not to check your e-mail until after you’ve spent some time with God.
You can — you need to — figure out for yourself what it looks like for you to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were asked by a serpent, “Who is in control?” They answered, “Us,” and ate the forbidden fruit.
Three thousand years ago, in Babylon, three young men named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were asked by a king on pain of death, “Who is in control?” They answered, “God,” and were thrown into the blazing furnace — in case you don't know the end of the story, God came through for them.
And two thousand years ago, a man in Palestine named Jesus hung on a cross and was asked, “Who is in control?” He answered, “God. Forever and always, God. Even when it doesn’t look like it, even when you don’t understand it, God.” And this Jesus gave his life to take the sin of the world on himself, so that we might be liberated from the cycle of brokenness and death, to right relationship with God and with others. And in case you don't know the end of the story, three days later, this man Jesus rose from the dead — that’s how you know God was in control. That’s how you know that God is still in control.
Here in 2012, you and I are asked the same question, “Who is in control?”
What’s your answer? And how are you going to back it up?
Justin Fung is associate pastor of The District Church.