I must offer a couple of caveats before I get too far along. First, as the name of this blog declares, I am unapologetically Anglican. For me, it is the best way to live out my faith. It has a depth and breadth of faith and spirituality that allows me to worship the Lord, grow in my faith and serve the Lord. Plus, as a priest, there is sartorial splendor to it that just adds to the whole worship experience. The other caveat is that I am very guilty of everything I am going to criticize here. It is that awareness that brought me to this point.
I confess I am on Facebook. I further confess that I check it regularly to see what is happening in Vern world. I have many friends on Facebook and appreciate reading about what is happening in their lives, if they even post at all. Many are really acquaintances though. Without Facebook I probably would not know anything about them. With Facebook, I have limited contact, very superficial really. Very few of my Facebook friends I would rank as close friends. I know some people on Facebook that have several hundreds, even thousands of friends. Yet, when they are in trouble, in need of help, they have only handful (if that many) that they can truly count on. This is a commentary on the sad state of affairs of society today. We possess thousands of friends who are arm’s length friends at best.
And this brings me to Jesus. Too many people have this type of relationship with Jesus. They have him as a Facebook friend but they do not have him as Lord and Savior. They check in to see what he is doing without it affecting their lives. Occasionally, they may even hit the like button for something he said but it will little impact on what they are doing. They will check their page when they have time, respond if they feel like it, and basically go about their business. In many ways this reminds me of the recent Twitter barrage about bringing our girls back after they were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Lots of efforts put in by fingers on iphones but no real change in the circumstances for those girls. Lots of efforts and little results, good intentions without impacting anything.
I can only imagine how disappointed Jesus is at all of his Facebook friends. They miss the point of Jesus saying, “I have called you friends.” (John 15:15) In the previous verse Jesus sets out the parameters for being “his friend.” “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14) Being a friend of Jesus is much more than just pressing a button to accept his friend request. Too many times we accept this as sufficient. Yet, Jesus wants, dare I say it expects, much more. We settle for so much less than the very best Jesus has to offer. What we do not realize is that we jip ourselves by settling. We give him just enough to make ourselves feel good without ever wondering what he requires. We settle for about an hour a week and no more, without getting involved and going deeper. We prefer performances rather than his presence, productions rather than participation.
The biggest consequence of all of this is the impersonal quality in all of our relationships. We rationalize that we are keeping in touch by sending a message or posting on Facebook. I did this at Christmas and now need to repent of it. I devalued my relationship with some people by just sending them a greeting online. Yes, I did make some effort to contact them. What I really should have done was send a Christmas card – personalized of course – or made an old fashioned phone call. A phone call allows you to hear their voice, to interact in a more personal way. Is the reason the Church is failing in its mission because we can no longer recognize the voice of Jesus because we do not take the time to listen, to engage, to talk to him face to face? I feel guilty sometimes when I have to text my son to get an answer from him. He is just upstairs in the house but is preoccupied with his computer and headphones. It is effective but not too personal. I guess the Church will produce more fruit once Jesus learns to Facebook us back or text! This will just perpetuate this crisis in the Church though.
I do not think that Facebook is of the devil. But I see the devil exploiting it to make us complacent in our faith and ineffective in our witness. Jesus does call us his friend and we can call him our friend. But Jesus is more than that. Jesus deserves more than a platonic relationship and a couple of presses on keys to keep in touch. Jesus is our Lord and Savior. He wants – he deserves – more of our time and effort. Let us turn Facebook Jesus into Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. This New Year, make Jesus more than just a friend.