Facebook is a popular forum for confessing sins.
The sins of others, that is.
We Christians have an insatiable, prurient appetite for viewing and sharing posts expressing outrage and alarm over those whom we are sure are doing things that are very, very, very wrong.
And yet, it should not surprise us that sinners sin. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, they make poor choices rather than wise ones. They exhibit little self-control. They act in partisan, self-serving, self-aggrandizing ways.
The truth is, we should actually be surprised when sinners don’t sin. That would be worth posting on Facebook.
Also worth posting would be outrage at our own actions. The Apostle Paul was a pioneer in this regard. You can almost envision him posting the following status update:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Imagine what would happen if Christians posted outrage at our own personal actions on Facebook, not the actions of others. Imagine what would happen if we ceased being outraged, shocked, or stunned by the actions of sinners. Imagine if the only way we posted about the actions of sinners was empathetically, readily admitting that if it were not for the indwelling spirit of God, we ourselves would be committing far more grievous sins than these. Consider what could change if Christians interceded for sinners rather than mocking them or being outraged by them.
And by interceding, I do not mean the “Take a look at what this world is coming to; God help us” kind of prurient despair. I mean the kind of intercession in which “God help us” identifies us with the sinner, not the purported righteous among us. For while we were yet sinners…
It is worth noting that the Christians in the Middle East who first encountered invading Muslim armies did not post their alarm and outrage on Facebook. Instead, they confessed that this was just judgment for the way they as Christians had failed to honor and obey the Savior’s commission for us to go unto all nations and teach them everything he had commanded. They saw the Muslim incursion as a call to self-examination and repentance, not a call to arms.
Rev. Christopher Akinola, a Nigerian pastor, takes just such an approach as he considers how Christians, especially pastors, in the lead-up to the last election focused their energy and attention on warning about the dangers of electing the Muslim candidate and the trouble this would mean for the Christians of Nigeria. Pastor Akinola suggests that the more immediate and certain danger for Nigerian Christians…is Nigerian Christians. I highly recommend you read his article and consider how it might apply even moreso to us.
This is not a call for Christians to abandon politics, nor for Christians to stay silent about sin. It is simply a reminder of the Lord’s command to us, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly…”
There’s a way to begin to bring about this sea change on Facebook: We can embody it ourselves. We can make a point not to click on links expressing outrage or statements like the ones above. When we do comment about sinners, we can use the word “us” to identify with them rather than to identify with the purported righteous. We can give glory to God by publicly acknowledging, “I can understand this struggle, this foolishness, this behavior. After all, there but for the grace of God go I.”
After all, sinners were not drawn to Jesus by his outrage nor by his silent affirmation of their sin, but instead by his standing “in the number” with them.
He even sent them friend requests.