I would like to address what I believe is a very real and present danger that I have only recently observed, but one that can easily rob us of our Christian vitality.In Matthew chapter 5 verses 13-16, Jesus is speaking to His followers, ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ NKJV.
When I was younger my sphere of influence was much smaller than it is today. What I said, what I did and who I purported to be had an influence on relatively few family members, friends and immediate classmates. Today, you can Google my name from anywhere in the world; you can do it from your iphone right now and see that, for example, I recently appeared at a City Commission meeting and even read a transcript of exactly what I said there. Today, we have ‘YouTube’, ‘Twitter’, and ‘Facebook’. ‘A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden’.
Increasingly, our ‘life style testimonies’ cannot be hidden. Like it or not, intend it or not, we ‘sit upon a hill’. Unintended ‘appearances’ may betray our real selves, or our ‘intended purpose’, but those ‘appearances’ none the less are often open to full public scrutiny, and so, as believers, it should be important to us to avoid ‘all appearance of evil’, 1 Thess. 5. 22. If, as Jesus said, we are the purifying ‘salt of the earth’, and our salt has lost its effectiveness, because unbelievers discount our testimony, then what of our usefulness to the Lord?
Recently, I was faced with a very unpleasant reality as I went ‘on’ Facebook and checked out a ‘friend’s’ home page. On Facebook, a ‘friend’ is someone you have mutually agreed to share entries with. This ‘friend’, from another area, has hundreds of other ‘friends’ from all around, who, in their turn, have hundreds of ‘friends’ themselves. So, the network that I have exposure to, even with very few Facebook ‘friends’ myself, is expansive. Many in this network I identified as believers, some as ‘prominent’ believers.
Sadly, I was amazed to view many of the photos and read many of the comments from other Christians that I knew that were available to me on my ‘friend’s’ homepage. I was saddened that my ‘friends’ had posted these on their own home page. When people gather, or call one another on the phone, or ‘Twitter’, or blog, they generally speak of things that they care about, that interest them, that excite them. I was seeing comments and photos about things that biblically should have been ‘abandoned’ by any believer as a ‘babe in Christ’, 2 Cor. 5. 17, but many of these folks are known to be more mature believers. I was observing the portrayal of worldly life styles that Paul commanded us to forsake, cf. Titus 2. 11-14.
It is as though there is a ‘parallel universe’ to the reality of this present life in operation here, and people, even believers, pass freely back and forth between the two. Apparently, these believers that I was seeing and reading about are ‘acting out’ a different ‘life style’ in this internet ‘parallel universe’ than the one they purport in person. Unfortunately, and intentionally or not, I fear it is in this ‘e-world’ where the ‘light’ they are projecting shines the brightest, and reaches out the farthest. And it did not appear to be a reflection of the ‘Light’ that our Lord was referring to when He said, ‘You are the light of the world’. I fear, rather, it is of those things that in Ephesians chapter 5 Paul bids us avoid, but rather walk as ‘children of light’.
Paul’s words to the early church at Corinth have never been truer: ‘Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in fleshy tablets of the heart’, 2 Cor. 3. 2-3.
I know there are many justifications that may be offered for one’s words and photos posted on the internet. There are youthful indiscretions; innocent, if indiscreet, moments, etc. I understand that each believer lives his life with the degree of piety that he understands the living Lord expects of him. I know that we have liberty in Christ Jesus. But I also know that wherever it is, we each lay down a footprint, a map or a theme that tells our life’s story. If our internet postings and comments are of our family, the message in either ‘universe’ is that we love our family, and family is important to us. I had to conclude from some of the themes of the Facebook postings that I had become privy to, that there are believers that I know and love in the Lord whose ‘parallel universe’ is of ‘old things’ that have not passed away, and behold, all things have sadly not become ‘new’. These were not expressions of lives now being lived for the Saviour.
I am writing this article for two reasons. Firstly, because I was deeply saddened to face the reality that for some I love and care about in the Lord, I believe their effectiveness for the Lord has been compromised. Thankfully, as believers, we know that this is not irreversible. Our God is a forgiving God and we have all grown in our faith as we confront those sins that so easily beset us and gain the victory. My prayer is that all of our ‘lights’ will always reflect the ‘true Light of the World’. Pray with me to that end. Secondly, because, as believers we desire a good testimony, we need to be on guard as to what we say, and who we ‘say’ we are, privately and publicly. This applies in the family, with unbelieving friends, at a public venue with thousands of others, and even in e-mails and on the internet. We are called to be a light that a lost soul can use to be guided to the safety of a harbour in Jesus Christ, not upon the rocks of worldliness. We are sitting upon a hill, and our Lord expects our beacon to be a reflection of ‘the Light of the World’, not a glow of worldliness.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, take this as I intend it, for our mutual growth and encouragement in the Lord. In these times when our ‘life’s message’ can be broadcast around the globe, be vigilant; live circumspectly as we are admonished to do in Ephesians chapter 5. May each of our lives so shine before our family, our friends, our assembly, our co-workers, our acquaintances, and on our web pages, that all may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.
Your Basket Is Empty