“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
While I am all for people to read, study and major in God as a subject, I am also vividly aware that the point of acquiring Christian knowledge is not so that it can puff up our heads, boost our confidence in debates or merely deepen our points in conversation. We do not read the Bible just so that we can avoid speaking heresies in our presentation of truth. There is more to it, much more. Christian knowledge is primarily a means to a greater end – and this end is summed up in the greatest commandment, loving God and loving our neighbors . We study and meditate on God, not just so that we can know about Him, but so that we can know Him – intimately, passionately, actively. If we are indeed in Christ, then the Word that was alive in Him ought to also be alive in us.
The Bible says that we are transformed by the renewal of our minds. This means that the transformation of the person is the end, and the renewal of the mind is but a means to this end. It is not enough to have our minds changed, our lives must also be changed. If faith without action is dead, then so is knowledge without love. Love is not a concept, but a lifestyle. When the Bible describes God as love, it describes Him in the context of our relationship with one another. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” [1 John 4:8] The proof of our knowledge of God is in our action, not diction.
Paul tells young Timothy that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17] The point here is simple, the end of all the teachings, rebukes and trainings that you will find in the Bible is this: righteousness and good works. God is most glorified in us when we are most practically like Jesus.
We are living in a digitally mediated age. The advent of social media like Twitter and Facebook has not only revolutionized the way we communicate, but also the way Christians fellowship. It is a popular saying that the internet has turned the world into a global village. But before we quickly swallow this observation as an absolute truth, I think we should step back and consider some things. This is especially in the arena of the Christian’s pursuit of personal holiness. There are several important things in the traditional village that I find curiously absent in this new, digital and global village. Here are just a few:
In the traditional village…
1. If a young man were to have a woman who is neither his wife nor relative visit his one-roomed apartment, the neighbors would look at him with disapproving eyes. Furthermore, if such a man were then to go out into the neighborhood and start talking to people about the importance of living in purity and a life that is beyond reproach, no one would listen. The best he would get in the form of a response would be a comment on his hypocrisy.
2. If two Christian sisters were to have an interpersonal conflict that led them not to speak to each other, the rest of the church and family may take notice and quickly rush to reconcile them. The two will be compelled to submit to the greater authority of congregational witness and discipline, and God may just grant them a repentant and reconciliatory attitude. Their fellowship will be restored and it will be stronger than before.
3. I will meet up with the neighborhood young men and discuss with them the importance of discipleship and evangelism. This will compel me to live out what I am preaching because there are younger men in my neighborhood that will need to be discipled and there are unconverted neighbors that will need to be evangelized to. Otherwise, my hypocrisy will soon become evident.
However, in the digital village…
1. If a young man were to click onto a website depicting naked women who are neither his wife nor his patients (he may be a gynecologist); neither his real neighbors, Facebook friends nor Twitter followers would even know about it. Now, if such a man were then to go out into his neighborhood, Facebook profile and Twitter account and teach others about the importance of living in purity, he may get hundreds of likes and re-tweets. He’ll go to bed feeling very pleased with himself.
2. If two Christian sisters were to have an interpersonal conflict that led them to stop speaking to each other, the rest of their internet buddies may never even notice. This is because meeting on the internet is not like meeting on the streets. On the streets, witnesses will see that you two are ignoring each other. On the web, no one will even notice or pay attention, especially if the ignored messages are private (as opposed to Facebook wall-posts). Such fellowships may never be restored and will eventually die off as hearts get hardened.
3. Since communication does not recognize geographical boundaries, my online presence and the depth of my blog-posts may lead others to invite me to speak and preach in their schools, churches and conferences. While there, I will highlight the importance of discipleship and I will even evangelize to these strangers. After this, I will proceed to log into my Facebook account and highlight what “the Lord has achieved” through me. All along, my un-discipled and unconverted (geographical) neighbors may never even know that I am a Christian.
These three contrasting examples are merely glimpses into a major problem facing many young digital age Christians today, I included. The internet has made it much easier to live in our comfort zones as our hearts get hardened and consciences get seared. We reveal only what we need the world to know – the good stuff. We conceal what we do not want to confront – our secret sins. We preach Jesus Christ crucified in public, but secretly continue to hold grudges, not forgiving those who have wronged us and not repenting to those we have wronged. We have enough attention online to convince us that God is still approving of us. Our head knowledge of the Gospel seems sufficient. The only practical expressions of love that we know have to do with “official ministry” work. When I say “official ministry”, this is what I mean: Being engaged and working hard at those aspects of the Christian life that will make it possible for you to share your thoughts on Christ (the pulpit stuff), and ignoring those aspects of your life that will compel you to share your practical, messy life with others (the pew stuff).
So we find ourselves attending more group Bible Study sessions (mainly to teach, lead or deliver the deep points), and attending to less one-on-one discipleship relationships. We find ourselves answering more calls to go and “minister” somewhere, and ignoring the calls of brothers in distress, who may deeply need us. We find ourselves posting more spiritual status updates on Facebook and Twitter, and sharing less and less about our lives, our weaknesses and our struggles or anything that would make us vulnerable.
These are just a few of the things that the global village can never reveal, simply because the global village is under our control. We determine what the world gets to know. Perhaps its time we considered shifting our attention back into the traditional village, originally set up by God as the most effective means of Grace, in ensuring that we grow in the true knowledge of Him who created us. A knowledge that is intensely practical,not just mental or sentimental.
Consider this a call to examine and judge your life in the traditional village rather than the digital village. The best example of a traditional village that God has made available for us is the local church congregation. Revisit the three examples outlined above and remember: God will judge the secrets of the digital village and applaud the publicity of the traditional village, not the other way around. Don’t get it twisted.
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13:35]
In His service and for His glory,