It’s my birthday next week; email me for my registry. Just kidding. It seems what we do these days on our birthdays is spend most of our time responding to Facebook birthday greetings. I’m not quite sure what the etiquette is for this sort of thing. But the twenty-first-century method of acknowledging birthdays is a Facebook post. I’ve gotten a few cards in the mail, a couple email “e-cards,” but mostly Facebook posts.
Like I said, I’m not sure what you are supposed to do with these things. Do you just send a general “thanks for all the posts” on your status? Do you “like” each one? Or do you send a note? I don’t send a note back to those who send me a card, but I’ve been responding to each one. It’s kind of fun. But they keep coming.
I’m not the greatest Facebook person around. Some folks are excellent at it, both in posting their own stuff and in commenting on others. I’ve been told something about someone and asked, “How did you know that?” “I checked their Facebook page,” is the response. It’s a pretty amazing tool. We even have a Facebook page for Discipleship Ministries. Did you know that? You can “friend” Discipleship Ministries and make comments or get information. I don’t know who administers it, and we’re not sure who all is looking at it, but you should check it out.
Like I said, however, I don’t know all the rules of Facebook, real or unwritten. I used to embarrass my kids by doing something “not cool” with my Facebook page, or theirs. I don’t always update everyone on my status - partly because I have trouble believing anyone really cares. But some folks obviously think they do, because they’ll tell the whole world anything and everything on Facebook. And I do mean everything. People have gotten into trouble via Facebook, but then apparently, regimes have been overthrown in part due to Facebook. At least if you believe the reports, and it is hard not to see something significant happening on the world stage.
That’s quite a range, when you think about it, from “Having a bad hair day!” to “Join the revolution to depose the dictators!” But the same instrument serves both causes. No wonder we want to know the rules. We don’t want to run the risk of misusing this powerful instrument. I have some questions, to be honest, about how social media in general has impacted the common discourse in our nation and world. I frequently vow to just shut it all down and delete all the apps off my phone, but then find myself coming back. Some folks are asking whether these things are a net positive or a net negative for humanity. Depending on the day and the posts I read, I lean one way or the other on a regular basis.
But I’m not really wanting to talk about social media, except as a way of talking about learning how things work, learning procedures and systems, learning the rules. Learning the rules is a common exercise. Jesus knew that, which is why he took the time to talk about the rules in the Sermon on the Mount. He knew he was in a rule-based society, so he decided to take a look at the rules and to mess with everyone’s head at the same time. “You thought you knew the rules?” he seems to be saying. “Well, listen to this!”
“You have heard that it was said . . . But I say to you”. Read through these verses and tell me you aren’t overwhelmed a little bit. I mean, my goodness. Rules are one thing. But this . . . This seems a bit much. Doesn’t it? Extreme rules. Intense rules. Rules only for those who are really into rules. Or something like that. I mean, we’ve evolved as a society, haven’t we? We’ve kinda let most of this stuff slide. No big deal, we say. Live and let live, we believe. To each his/her own, we believe.
But should we? We don’t want to be sticks in the mud, yet reading these verses, it seems like this higher standard is something more than adding to the list of rules. It is as if Jesus is trying to get us to realize something about ourselves and about our relationships. And that something might be as simple as “pay attention.” Or “these relationships are precious, treat with care.” Or maybe even “community is a gift from God, don’t waste it, don’t abuse it, don’t ignore it.”
You see, maybe I’m just wired this way, but it seems to me that all these rules, all these higher ways of living are about community. They are about relationships. And Jesus is saying that we ought not take anyone for granted. We ought not run the risk of hurting anyone. We ought not treat anyone as less than a child of God. These aren’t rules so much as a way of creating a community that resembles the kingdom of God.
Hmm, creating a community. I guess that means that Jesus was into Facebook before Facebook was around. And like Facebook, the community of faith can be about the little details of daily living or about revolutions and transformation. And maybe even both at the same time.
The birthday wishes will keep coming in for days, I know. They always do. Some from folks I haven’t seen for a long time. Others from ones I encounter each week or even more. And yet there is this connection. Woven together by birthday wishes and the body of Christ; we are a community of respect and of joy. A caring community of hope and affirmation. We are a Christ-breathed community of transformation and spiritual growth.
I doubt that is what Zuckerberg had in mind. Now Jesus on the other hand . . .