A couple of days ago I saw a book entitled The Church of Facebook on the desk of one of my co-workers. I was intrigued for a couple of reasons. One being that I am teaching about “Social Networking” at a pastor’s conference tomorrow morning. Secondly, and most importantly, I am very interested by impact Facebook is making upon culture and especially our culture of communication.
I briefly read a section that discussed Jesus’s interaction with the woman at the well that we find in John 4. He spoke of three qualities found in His communication that should be found in ours. I believe this applies and is extremely relevant to how we should live out our “virtual lives” on Facebook.
The first of these qualities is intentionality. John says, “and he must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4). Now, that’s not exactly true. Not to say that John was lying, however, as in Georgia there are many ways to to get to where you are going. Jesus’s “must need” wasn’t based upon geography but based upon His intentional approach to ministry. His purpose here on earth, not a map, caused them to need to go through Samaria.
Being intentional means we do what we do on purpose, and when we put that in context of relationships, it means we build and develop relationships with people on purpose. In a Facebook world, we tend to strive for quantity of relationships/friendships rather than quality. Some people will “add” anyone to their friends list, whether they really know them or not. The question isn’t how many “friends” we have (online or offline) but how intentional we are about developing those friendships.
In the scene we find in John 4 we find Jesus exemplifying what He has asked for us in the area of humility. “Humility is transformative because it opens us to see beyond our own experience,” writes Jesse Rice in The Church of Facebook. Humility is that attitude that places the other person in a prime position, that doesn’t worry so much about getting our own way or having to be noticed.
Jesus when he found the woman at the well responded to her need. He met her where she was. He didn’t start with, “You dirty, rotten sinner, what in the world have you been thinking, living the way you do?” No, he met her on her turf (literally), and talked with her out of her experience, gently but intentionally guiding the conversation back to what this woman needed for hope and salvation.
Notice Jesus did not live in Samaria for 5 years having these conversations before he got to the Good News. This is the method of ministry many would pervert out of this text in the of contextualization. This quality must be balanced with the previous quality of intentionality.
We are in a generation where many people have are living two lives. The life they live in reality and the one they live in virtual reality. As they spend more and more time in cyberspace it becomes harder and harder for anyone, including themselves, to know who they really are. Christians we must address this temptation. Our identity is find in Christ and not the newsest apps, events, and statuses to like of this like on Facebook.
Some people create a pretend life on Facebook because they know from life that people do not accept they are truly. Other people who are plaing pretend during the daytime get to “really be themselves” at night online. In both cases we find a generation in the middle of an identity crisis.
Look at the way Jesus chatted (pun intended) with a new friend at the well. Jesus was able to deal authentically, honestly, with her. He was willing to accept her where she was rather than demanding that she become someone else before he would talk to her. Unlike the other Jews who wanted nothing to do with this woman unless she was to become as one of them, Jesus was able to meet her where she was at and lead her to where she needed to be.
I cannot say enough and definitely cannot in this blog about the need for guidelines for communication online. That is not what I am trying to address in this post. (So save your comments about the pitfalls of social interaction via Facebook for another day). If Jesus would have never shown who He truly was to the woman should would have left the conversation without hope. We must let those we communicate with in life and on social networking sites who are really are! People are looking for something real. Let us be real as we intentionally and humbly lead them to a place where they recognize their thirst and need for Living Water!
Let me encourage you to read some articles from my missionary friends around the world. Check it out at www.bcwe.org