The teen youth of St. Luke’s three sites gathered at University Lutheran Chapel on Friday, December 6, for the Socially Acceptable Lock-in, to explore how to follow Jesus while navigating through the minefield of the Internet, and specifically social media.
This is the final part of a three-part series looking at many of the same topics discussed at that lock-in, as well as provide some tips and tools to equip parents and teens with some resources as they follow Jesus in the digital age.
Why it Matters
By Sam Fink
At our “Socially Acceptable” lock-in earlier this month, I had a chance to speak with our students and their parents about why social media matters. We touched on the idea that social media is not going away, It is not a hobby, a habit, or a fad. Because of this, we need to have honest opinions and conversations about it, especially as families. We need to address these issues in our parent-child relationships, but also as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Social media is not going away, It is not a hobby, a habit, or a fad.
In this session, parents along with their children created strategies about how they were each going to use social media going forward. We touched on three major points, which compel us to be responsible in our networking:
1. God wants great things from us – Philippians 4:8-9
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
We all know it, because we’ve all heard it before. While the reminder that we should be focusing on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, etc is really, a very good reminder, I think the best part of this text comes next. “Practice these things…” Practice! That must mean we aren’t perfect yet! God wants great things from us, he wants us to dwell on great things, he wants us to emulate great things, but most importantly he wants us to practice great things.
2. God wants great things for the people around us – Romans 14:13
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”
I love how Paul wrote this; it’s simple, but still very precise. In the same way that other people can have a negative impact on us, we can affect them in ways that will cause them to stumble. This is not how God designed humans to interact with each other. In social media, there are a lot of ways we can cause other people to stumble, the most obvious is to post or share anything that doesn’t fit into the picture painted for us in point number one.
We can also engage each other into conversations, debates, maybe arguments, that are not always uplifting, productive, or edifying to God’s kingdom. It is good to be reminded that the people around us are “practicing” too.
3. God wants us – Matthew 22:15-22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
Our focus here is based on the idea that God wants us to dedicate everything about ourselves to him. In this account, the Pharisees question Jesus about taxes, getting an answer that they probably weren’t looking for. There is an obvious follow-up question to Jesus’ point here, one which wasn’t asked, probably for fear of another answer they wouldn’t
like. That question would be, “And what is God’s?”
After Jesus’ first answer, it seems they knew better than to prod any further, it simply wouldn’t
bode well for their agenda. It would likely have gone like this: If we find Caesar’s image on a coin, and say “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” we need only to ask ourselves, “whose image then, is upon me?” to know that we ought to render ourselves to God.
This means giving ourselves wholly to him, even in things as seemingly trivial as social media.
Victor Minetola said it like this: “We (the non-natives in the technological world) like to say social media is a virtual reality. The fact of the matter is it is an extension of reality, a part of reality — not a replacement or a facsimile.”
When I asked the students at the lock-in to raise their hand if they use social media, they all raised their hands. When I asked if they think it is becoming more or less popular, they all said more. When I asked if it was their main form of communication with people, they said it was.
As we closed out the lock-in we gave ourselves a challenge to begin using social media differently, how we could be more deliberate and positive in our use. We’ve established that this matters, so as a community we should start to treat it like it does.
We have in front of us an incredible tool to build the Kingdom of God. If we don’t let it become a stumbling block, and work to make it an actual positive, it can be one of our greatest resources in spreading God’s love.