“Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them…When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:20-22
Long before social media, Peter was tempted to sinfully compare. He received some disturbing news about his future martyr’s death, and his gut-reaction was to “turn”—to turn away from the Savior to look at the disciple following them. Chances are this wasn’t the first time Peter was tempted to compare his lot with John’s. After all, he can’t have failed to notice before that John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
But consider, if John hadn’t been following them, if Peter had been the only disciple, what would his response have been to Jesus’ announcement? John’s presence wasn’t the cause of Peter’s sin, but it sure served to expose his heart!
While John and Peter could hardly have imagined the development of Twitter and Facebook, our Savior did. Walking on the beach that post-resurrection day, He not only sought to lovingly instruct Peter, he had you and me in mind as well.
And Jesus’ rebuke to Peter is more urgent than ever. For instead of one disciple, we now have a huge crowd “following” us everywhere on our smart phone or laptop. The temptations to turn from Jesus and sinfully “see” others have multiplied a hundred-fold.
Every time we use social media we encounter people who have it better than we do (or so it seems!). And not just a few people, but many! We only have to skim our feed to observe marriages that appear stronger, children that are more lovable, women who have more friends, more talents, more money, more leisure time, more followers, more respect, more likes, more everything!
It all blurs together and soon it feels like everyone has a great life except for us. And we turn. We look away from the Savior and His call and grace and we compare our life to another disciple, or to a composite made up of a hundred others. No wonder studies show Facebook often leaves people depressed!
But our Savior, in His infinite love and wisdom, has anticipated these temptations. And he says to us, just as he did to Peter so many centuries ago, “What is that to you? You follow me!”
Social media is great because it allows us to “stay connected” with family and friends, right? Let’s reconsider that assumption for a moment: How much of your social media time is actually spent meaningfully connecting—and I’m talking about more than the occasional “like”—and how much time is spent merely looking at your feed?
Our use of social media is often more passive than we realize. I’d wager to say we do lots more looking at posts and pictures and uploads than actual connecting with others.
In this digital age, eavesdropping has gone viral. No longer is it simply the woman straining to hear the conversation at the nearby table or a coworker listening in on a phone call. Now we “listen in” on hundreds of friends, family, and friends of friends (read: strangers) around the world, no matter where we are or where they are. And this passive, detached, skimming of social media sites consumes a large percentage of our time online.
But our use of social media is also more active than we realize. While we think we are only “looking” at our feed, a whole lot more may be going on in our thoughts and hearts than we discern. For human nature is such that we almost never observe other people passively or impartially. We can’t resist bringing ourselves into the picture. In fact, we do this so automatically that we often don’t even know it’s happening.
And thus, “connecting” can quickly become sinful comparing.
We’ve talked a lot about the Internet and our priorities, our time, and our homes. But the temptations don’t stop there. We must not only be watchful over how much time we spend online, but also the content of what we are clicking, reading, viewing, searching for and commenting on.
As we browse the web, what kind of ideas and images we are dumping into the well-spring of our lives (Prov. 4:23)? And what kind of content are we posting online? Is it pure? Peace loving? Full of kindness and good fruit (James 3:13-18)?
Consider your browsing history from yesterday. Would you be happy to project its contents onto a big screen at church for all to see? Or would you feel uncomfortable if godly friends discovered how you spent your time reading and commenting?
The inescapable truth is that what we do online doesn’t stay online. It is who we are.
And who we are, virtually and actually, is the focus of our conversation over the next few days.
Emma and Jennie wrote us to tell us how they are applying our current series on the Internet:
I wanted to thank you for the current series on living intentionally, particularly as it relates to the use of the internet. The Lord has really used it to convict me to turn off my computer (which for me means email, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and focus my heart and mind more faithfully on my home and, more importantly, my two precious children (ages 3 and 1)! I have known for awhile that that internet has had too much of a draw on my time and affections, but not until I read Carolyn and Nicole’s posts (”A Mother’s Mission” and “Is Anyone Home?”) that I was sobered enough to actually change my habits. I want my kids to see their mother devoted not to the internet, but to Christ and the responsibilities He has given me. I pray that the Lord will continue to give me grace to put off the inordinate desire for distraction and entertainment and give myself more diligently being a wife, mother and homemaker. Thank you for your encouragement and help in this regard!
I wanted to thank you so much for your current series on the internet! Today, I was reading through all the series posts and my heart was so convicted. I am a 20-year-old nursing student from Australia and so I certainly have a lot of responsibilities that come with this season of my life. Today I realised that my priorities do not reflect a heart that is set on seeking God first! Being a distance student, the majority of my study is done through the computer so the internet takes a rather large portion of my time.
Today, I realised it takes too much. Today, before I had even left my bed (how lazy!) I checked Facebook on my iphone. I then turned on my computer and checked emails, Facebook again and my blogfeed as well. I then commenced my study. It was while I was on my study break that I read your current series - I immediately stopped what I was doing and spent time with God in His Word and had my prayer time.
Now I have a new rule: my computer does not go on and my phone remains untouched every day until after I have spent time with the Lord. Thank you for addressing such an important topic, it certainly opened my eyes to bad habits that, with the Lord’s help, I will endeavour to change from now on!
Thank you Jennie and Emma for your example of obedience to God’s Word! We’re all provoked to consider: What is one way we need to change our online habits this week to put first things first?
“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
Recently our friends Doug and Karen sent us a kind note reflecting on many memories from when they knew us as children. Karen often babysat for us and one incident in particular has become part of Mahaney family legend. In Karen’s words, she remembers, “‘losing’ Janelle at the Woodward and Lothrop department store [Janelle would have been quite young at the time] only to find her being fed by an attendant in the candy department to which Nicole said ‘Why do the wicked prosper!’”
I can still feel the righteous indignation of that moment. Here I am, obedient child, staying close to the babysitter in the store. Janelle, by contrast, wanders off and what does she get? A piece of candy! And not just any piece of candy—if I remember correctly she was found at the Godiva chocolate counter!
The injustice of it all! Scripture was the only appropriate response in that moment. And, fortunately I had just the verse.
Have a super weekend everyone!
See you back here on Monday,
Nicole for Carolyn, Kristin, and that “wicked” little sister of mine