Are you on Facebook? Do you “Tweet”? Are your everyday experiences shared with the world in 140 character chunks? What about a blog on which you sound forth your opinions or chronicle your life for all to see? We live in a connected world of where social networking is all the rage. But “social networking” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s difficult to sustain a conversation with someone when they can’t give you their whole attention because they are too busy twiddling with their Smartphone. Besides, some of the stuff that gets posted online is downright antisocial. People have got themselves into trouble with the law for their malicious Tweets and vile Status Updates. And how many of your Facebook “friends” do you actually know?
Yes, when it comes to social networking many of us are at it in one way or another. It can be a fun way of keeping in touch with family and friends, but like most other aspects of human life cyberspace has its dark side. One of the problems is that Tweets or Status Updates have no ‘tone of voice’. You might type something in jest, with a little slice of ironic humour, but your readers can’t always see that and so you end up unintentionally upsetting someone. And then, if you are over 40 (like me) you may not be up-to-date with the acronyms that fly from teenagers’ keypads. For instance, “LOL” means “laugh out loud”, not “lots of love”. A mum found this out when texting her daughter to say, “Sorry to tell you this, but gran has just passed away. LOL, mum.”
The Bible makes this amazing statement about Jesus, “And the Word became flesh”. (John 1:14) In revealing himself to us most fully, God did not send us an email, or a text message, or a Tweet, or a Status Update, or even a book. He became one of us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. As a man Jesus entered into the world of human relationships, with all the joy and pain that entails. He took the time to speak with fishermen, tax collectors, religious leaders, distraught mothers, the diseased and the afflicted. He was a true social networker, as he proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom to all who would listen.
With Jesus “friendship” means more than belonging to a list on Facebook. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Jesus came to suffer and die on the cross for our sins so that we might have a relationship with God that is real, personal, and eternal. That is why the Word was made flesh.
This great fact has implications for Jesus’ followers. There can be no substitute for “in the flesh” fellowship with our fellow-believers. Listening to sermons online is all well and good, but to gather with flesh and blood human beings and listen to another flesh and blood human being proclaim God’s Word is where it’s at. As the apostle John wrote, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 12). Now that's social networking.
* Based on an article for November's News & Views, West Lavington parish magazine.