I am not a mathematician. Oh, giggling peels of laughter, I am not a mathematician. But today is one of those days when I wish I knew how to make an algorithm. Or an algebra problem. Or… something… that could help me to prove something.
See, I have a theory. Let’s call it, oh, the Theory of Collective Christian Distraction. And it is one that pops into my head well, just about every time I get on Facebook. For there, undoubtedly, I will see an article or a blog post that someone has shared. Sometimes (not often) they are written by someone I actually know. Sometimes they are shared from the blog of someone I don’t know. The sources are varied, but the intent is often not: They contain religious or semi-religious content and opinion that will inevitably spark conversation and debate about some gray matter among Christians. Let me be very clear: I am not talking about scripture-based devotional writings or videos—the posts I’m speaking of rarely drive us to open our Bibles, but rather to open our mouths via the keyboard.
And then, if you want to, you can actually spend the better part of an entire day watching the responses of people who you don’t know… who the author of the blog post likely doesn’t know… who, quite possibly, your Facebook friend doesn’t know. Sometimes the numbers will go into the high double digits, or even triple digits. It is clear that all of them put (some) thought and time into crafting these responses, whether right or not. This, despite the fact that it will simply disappear into the ether when on the following day someone posts something about the government or –oh look! A cute cat!
WHAT. A. DESTRUCTIVE. WASTE. OF. TIME.
That’s pretty much the Theory of Collective Christian Distraction. I just wish I could figure out a number that would do something like this:
Add time spent reading such articles to time spent by poster crafting an initial comment.
Subtract time spent in Bible study on the matter (this rarely appears to happen, at least between first reading and sharing).
Divide by amount of confusion experienced by new Christians or struggling ones.
Multiply by number of people who may be lurking on the topic but not posting.
Multiply again by negative perceptions of ‘argumentative Christians’ who are no longer really all that hip to spending time with you inside or outside of worship because of how feisty and outspoken you and your church buddies are.
Can someone help me quantify this? Because really, I’d like to compare it to the amount of time we’re spending in the actual ministering to the spiritual needs and in study of the Bible with people who need to know about Jesus. The real lives we could touch if we’d get off the computer, stop arguing non-binding matters, and focus on all the people who are hurting.
Me, I’m trying. I don't want to get distracted from my real work here as a servant of God. I’m getting better about letting the arguments go. It’s not always easy. But I am instead making a conscious effort to do what is productive in my own personal service to the Lord, instead of engaging online. I’m a mom, and let me tell you, there is no shortage of what is in the Bible that I need to learn myself, and teach my children. That’s where my focus needs to be. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be aware of what’s going on in our culture or what our brothers and sisters are concerned about—I think that’s part of the warning Jesus gives in Matthew 10:16.
I’m saying we must be on guard about the time and effort and good will that all this ‘discussion’ eats up. And I’m saying it’s harder to do my actual work when I’m distracted and distraught about what everyone thinks today about Blog Post X. And far harder when I’m upset about something someone clear across the country said that truly, has no bearing on how I will worship God come Sunday.
So. Instead of using my emotional energy on those things, I might invite a college-aged girl over for lunch. Instead of writing out something thoughtful but soon-to-be-buried by other posts, I could be texting a friend to see how she’s doing today. Instead of reading responses, I could be reading my Bible.
Of course Facebook can be a tool for good. Of course it can. But public division, I’m pretty sure, is not the best way to use the tool. People who need God don’t need more useless fighting. They are already in the fight of their lives. They need an introduction to the peace of Jesus. But sometimes we feel like our opinions must be heard, and let our lack of humility and meekness make us terrible advertisers of God’s gifts. And yes, I have struggled with whether to even put this post on Facebook as it could be perceived as a hot-button topic post. But, I'm asking specifically that you not make comment or argument publicly, but merely that you give it your consideration (and of course feel free to message me personally if you feel the need to discuss further).
If you post the stuff, please think seriously and honestly about why you’re posting it. If you follow or respond, think about whether it is the best use of your time and influence. If you are discouraged by it, get out your Bible and read God’s words, not someone else’s. Ask a trusted older Christian to help you make sense of it all—in person if you can.
“ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:15-16
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11