Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The REAL Christian in a VIRTUAL World!

Interaction and communication have changed more radically in the last decade than in any other previous 10 year period  in history since the invention of the printing press about 500 years ago.  As Christians we must be keenly aware of the world around us in order to be effective evangelists, our “prime directive” as it were.  Jesus uses the nuclear phrase “all authority on heaven and earth has been given to me” to emphasize the eternal urgency of our evangelistic ambassadorship.  “All things internet” has given us tools unimaginable  just 10 years ago, while at the same time, tempting us in ways ALSO unimaginable just 10 years ago!

No change has been more profound than the embrace of nearly everyone (to at least some extent) of what is now called the “social media.”  Today, it is no longer necessary to actually MEET someone in order to become their “FRIEND!”  Four general observations regarding “social media” before we continue:

·         Not all aspects of computer technology are beneficial for Christians.

·         Not every medium meshes with God’s Will.

·         For the Christian, virtual interaction must supplement family, fellowship and community, NOT replace them!

·         It is not necessary for the Christian to know everything about everybody else on every occasion.

For our purposes, we will define “social media” as:

Any medium that relies on some kind of electronic devise allowing 2 or more people to simultaneously interact with each other on a truth neutral platform.

Regardless if we are speaking of the increasingly popular “interactive video game,” Google, ® Facebook, ® LinkedIn, ® Twitter ® or any kind of texting, we are speaking of media that allows the individual  to “create” an on-line persona that may or may not reflect reality.  In other words, the difficulty  of ascertaining whether ay written, spoken or visual communication  is truthful – or not – is greatly enhanced.  Chaos thrives on such doubt.  We must all, therefore, ask the question; “Does media shape me or do I shape my media?”  A better question is; “Does GOD shape the media I use?”

The Scripture says in Proverbs 23:7; “…as a man thinks in his own heart, so is he.”  The challenge for the Christian is to not allow his virtual personality (persona) replace his real personality.  This “substitute” personality that people “create” for their on-line presence is often times called an “avatar.”  Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary defines “avatar” thusly: “…an electronic image [electronic incarnation (RM)] that represents and is manipulated by a computer user (as in computer game).”[1]  THIS is precisely how, for example, men get entangled with on-line pornography.  While living “morally” in their “real life,” their “avatar” is engaging in the unspeakable in their “virtual world.”  This creates the ultimate spiritual showdown for, as Jesus said, “…no man can serve two masters.”  (Matthew 6:24)

The “avatar,” simply put, is electronic hypocrisy!   Knowing all this, what guidance does God’s Word have regarding these matters?  Paul gives us (by inspiration) heavenly wisdom regarding Christian conduct in two passages:

Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.  – I Thessalonians 5:19 – 22 (ESV)

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:25 – 32 (ESV)

There are applications from these two passages to our “virtual concerns:”

·         Examine everything on-line carefully for real and virtual “realities” “appear” to be the same!

·         Do not deny who you are on-line.  One cannot take on a non-Christian persona / avatar and be a Christian in the real world.

·         Embrace only the good on-line

·         Flee from everything that even has a hint of evil on-line

·         Be extremely cautious on-line because  the lines between good and evil are blurred to the extreme

·         Exercise wisdom on what you see, experience, express and participate in on-line.

·         Use your time wisely on-line, remembering your media should serve you, not the other way around

·         Make all your on-line decisions based upon God’s precepts

·         Flee any addictive behavior on-line

·         Be full of the Spirit instead of being full of obsession & imagination especially your “avatar!”

·         Pray often on-line often, expressing thanksgiving to God

·         Always follow the Golden rule on-line

·         Finally, “virtual” Christianity cannot replace REAL Christianity!

In conclusion; throw away all your “avatars” and put only the “real you” on-line as we are “no longer our own but bought with a price!”

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