What would the Apostle Paul have thought of Facebook?
Would he, like some, call Facebook the Devil in disguise? Or would he, like some 500 million others today, log in, change his status, and check in on his friends?
Some might say the ancient theologian was far too serious for such frivolity.
But I’m not sure.
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Proverbs 26:18-19: Some might interpret this proverb as a slam against humor. Some see God, faith, the Bible, and life as so serious there is no place for joking. That kind of thinking is what made Mark Twain, the man with a fabulous sense of humor, think twice about going to heaven. He worried playing the same tune on a harp might be a tad boring.
We do our God no favors denying him a sense of humor. Thus, this proverb is not a prohibition against joking, but rather against using humor to cover up our true ideas or feelings.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
I believe the Apostle Paul would have embraced social media such as Facebook (though probably with a wise, critical eye) because he was an innovator, especially when it came to communicating the truth of Jesus Christ.
Not many people could read or write in Paul’s day, and letters were exchanged mainly between educated government officials, yet Paul wrote personal letters to his friends and common everyday folk (thirteen that we know of including Titus and Timothy). Some say that personal letter writing as we know it today (or used to before email and Facebook) did not really gain ground until about 1500AD. Paul was well before his time. Surely he would have seen this technology as a way to talk about Jesus.
Further, I believe Paul would have logged on because he valued relationships. Paul is famous for his theology. But above all he valued people and friendships.
Paul tells his friends in Thessolinica, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” And he greets, names as friends, affectionately mentions, and encourages over 80 people by name in his letters. There are many others he does not name. In Titus he mentions Artemus, Tychicus, Zenas, and Apollos. Not one New Testament letter of Paul’s does not contain a warm personal greeting to some person or group. Paul’s Facebook friend list would have been almost as long as any teenage girl’s.
Like his mentor and master, Jesus, Paul cared about people. He cared about their health, families, faith, relationships, beliefs, work, theology, ideas, politics, sex lives, kids, marriages, and, especially, their eternal destinies. And he loved them so deeply he suffered physical pain and persecution to be with them. He traveled miles, wrote difficult letters, prayed, argued, taught, wept, and was imprisoned for their sake and the gospel.
Despite our modern ability to connect, many people are lonely. A recent study reported 67% of Americans are spending less time with friends than ever. And for us within the church, whom Jesus commanded to love one another, we often value doctrine and structures and systems and budgets and buildings over relationships. This must break our relational God’s heart.
I have a new friend I met through email who wrote that, as important as doctrine is, he believes right doctrine follows right relationships. I agree. For that matter, Jesus seemed to believe that love was our first doctrinal calling. Paul certainly held fast to the cord of truth. But he seldom strangled strangers with it. Rather he laid it out within the loving friendships he developed.
As the modern saying goes, “Would you rather be right or be in relationship?”
My answer, “I’d rather be in right relationships.”
Would Paul have used Facebook? Though I asked the question, I’m not sure it really matters. I just asked it to focus on this fact: Paul never forgot how important relationships were. So, where Facebook would have fostered them, he would have logged on. And where Facebook hindered knowing and loving the people God placed in his life, he may have said, “Facebook is the devil in disguise.”
1. Which passage spoke most to you?
2. What did the four have in common?
3. What social networks do you use?
4. Do they deepen or distance you from relationships?
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