There are no new sins, only more diverse and efficient ways of committing them. Before we let the mainstream of 21st Century culture catch us in its current, let’s hit pause for a moment and get our bearings. Perhaps it’s time to swim against the information flow.
Here are four godly disciplines to pursue in 2014 that have taken on a unique significance in the last five to ten years.
1. Pluck the I out of your iPhone.
The advent of smart phones has introduced an unprecedented rate of interruption into our social interactions. Phones have made us selfish and inconsiderate in ways that used to be deemed boorish and uncultured.
Formerly, if someone walked up to you and began talking while you were already engaged in another conversation, that the person would be considered rude.
But this decade has made us feel rude for not replying instantly to any interruption that hails from our phone.
You know how frustrating it is to be halted mid-sentence by a text chime tone, only to have the person you were talking with treat the “What’s up?” ping as if it were a life-and-death enquiry. I understand if Jack Bauer asked me to hold my thought while he checked the text message from the President. But very few people work for CTU or are on call to intercept a terrorist attack.
Most people answer their phones for one reason only: they heard it “Ping.” How Pavlovian can you get?
Consider just how inconsiderate and demeaning it is to peer intently into a screen, while the person in front of your face is still talking to you.
And even if the message is from an important source for a truly urgent reason, surely we owe it to whomever we are conversing with to let them finish their thought, or otherwise excuse ourselves with an explanation of why this intruder is legitimately more important than they are.
I believe this is becoming an area in which Christians can witness and set an example. Personally, I am going to resolve this new year to not allow my phone to make me behave inconsiderately to those I love.
By the way, I once rejected a phone call during a family dinner. Do you know what happened? Nothing. Go figure. Apparently my availability is not as critical to national security as Jack Bauer’s.
Phil 2:3…in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(For the most embarrassing cellphone interruption ever, check out what this orchestra conductor did…)
2. Favor face time over Facebook
In a related resolution, I want to make a point of cultivating friendships in a coffee shop, my home, at the beach, or in other places that are…well, actual places. Facebook relationships, forged in the either of cyberspace, fueled by texts and emoticons, have their place in human interaction, but they shouldn’t replace the preciousness of fellowship that comes from being together.
It’s a way of loving your neighbor and honoring the image of God over an image download.
This is something Satan loves to undermine…
1 Thess 2:17-18 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.
1 Thess 3:10-11 …we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you
3. Tweet to edify, not attract attention.
Prov 29: 11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. …20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Eccl 9:17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
In other words, just because you have a tribe of followers on Twitter or your blog, does not mean you should relish spouting whatever pontification gurgles up from your reservoir of stagnant opinions.
(For some other lessons we learn from social media, see: In the Tweet by and by: Twitter and Eschatology)
4. Add value, not noise.
The Internet has granted access to soap boxes and pulpits that might just be better left on mute. But anyone in a wi-fi hotspot can now elevate banal and inane chitchat to a level of publishable content. As believers we need to apply our Lord’s standards of communication to every message we post.
Eph 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths [or Twitter accounts, or Facebook page, or WordPress blog], but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Prov 10:19-21 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
The irony of posting this message on a blog, is not lost on me. But I hope you will apply the parts of this that you believe honors the Lord. And I really hope you aren’t reading this while someone is talking to you in real life.