As I was running today, I was listening to a podcast that was talking about internet and Facebook addiction. This led me to ponder on the phenomena that is Facebook. And what I realized is that people approach Facebook in two ways.
1. They parade the best side of their lives onto the web for all to see.
2. They freely share every sordid detail of their lives behind a cyber shield.
In my time in the church, and even more so now as a pastor, I have come to see that people approach the local church in much the same way as they do Facebook. They want the social interaction, they want the community, but they want it one of two ways:
1. They parade the best side of their lives on Sunday (Friday here in the UAE) morning and on Wednesday night for everyone to see. Glossing over the realities of the week. Stub your toe at church and you grin and bear it. Stub it at home and out comes the four-letter words. Yell at your wife in the car, smile and be a saint in the sanctuary. When they gather with their family in Christ they are on their best behavior. They show what they want to show because they don’t believe people would ‘like’ the real them.
2. They do whatever they want and are never challenged because they walk into church with a sign on their forehead which says, “Don’t judge me.” They gather with others, but actually they are distant, encapsulated in a bubble of individualism. They makes sure and block comments from certain people and they never get real close to anyone, because of the comfort and lack of accountability that is found in anonymity. If they do get challenged they are quick to unfriend that person and might even rant about them to other people in the church,
A lack of Gospel is the problem in both of these situations. The first person fails to see that because Christ died for their ugliness, they don’t have to keep it hidden in the shadows. In fact, Friday (Sunday) morning and Wednesday night should be the one place where they can be for real, because everyone else should be equally vulnerable. They gather because they have the same problems and Jesus is the common solution. We are accepted by God because of Jesus’ perfection 7 days a week for around 33 years and because he has already seen and borne the guilt and shame of our ugliness.
The second person fails to see (and believe) that Christ was held account for sin that he had never done. They don’t see that he bore judgment for the sin that they protect. He was humiliated because of their pride and self-justification. They may not care what people think of them, Jesus didn’t either, but he cared what the Father thought and as the guilt of our arrogance and self-sufficiency came onto his shoulders, the one Person whose opinion mattered turned His back. They close themselves off from judgment, Jesus opened himself up to judgment.
We likely fall often into one of these categories, I think the first one is the most common and two are often mixed. We can fight against this by first of all being vulnerable when the body of Christ gathers. We can fight against this by allowing ourselves to be challenged by others in the church, putting down our defenses. But the Gospel must be the catalyst. Always trying to be on our best behavior at church shows that we misunderstand church and Gospel -we want others to justify us. Brazen indifference to accountability shows that we don’t see our need for the Gospel and church – we want to justify ourselves. Don’t be a Facebook Christian. Don’t parade your good side. Don’t flaunt your failures. Go to church this week humble and open as the worst version of yourself.