Thursday, December 27, 2012
I’m considering becoming a Facebook Christian — and leaving the church behind.
Really, there is a big upside. I can log on to Facebook any time of day or night; I’m not confined to a specific time for a “service.” Instead of hearing one person’s point of view — the preacher’s — I’m exposed to a plethora of opinions.
I’m becoming a much more open-minded, tolerant and accepting person, because on Facebook, I read the philosophical statements about life from many different people.
And if I really don’t like somebody who has “friended” me on Facebook, I can “unfriend” him and not have to deal with him anymore, whereas in the church, I might have to take Communion, kneeling next to the moron.
I hate to admit it, but I have actually “unfriended” some of my relatives because of the overwhelming volume of their posts. They just talk too much — like some preachers I know. I have friends on Facebook who post Bible verses, sometimes with comment. So I can get my inspirational thoughts for the day, quickly skimming over any long-winded sermonizing they do — something I can’t do in church, unless I hold my stomach, as if I’m in pain, and bolt for the door.
And the best part is, I don’t have to put any money in the collection plate.
But, then, I began to read some of Jesus’ comments in the Gospels.
I was shocked. Jesus was not at all tolerant. He did not accept other points of view. He was locked into one point of view — God’s alone. He didn’t accept all religions as equally valid or important.
In fact, Jesus called the leaders of one religion “snakes and vipers.”
These were religious men of great learning, reputable credentials and tremendous power. These were the same people Jesus called “white-washed sepulchers.” In contemporary language, that would mean comparing their teaching to a large pile of manure from a bull. Jesus warned people not to even listen to these religious teachers opine about life and God, lest they become “twice the sons of hell” as these teachers were.
I think progressive people today would quickly label Jesus an “intolerant bigot.”
Yet I was struck with Jesus’ words: “If you continue in my word, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” He was totally dedicated to following one point of view, drawing on one source of information — the truth he brought from God.
Although “my word” in the context of the above-quoted Scripture probably doesn’t simply mean “Bible,” but the whole testimony of Christ in his church, you get the point.
Why listen to the unreliable and often depressing opinions of people on Facebook, when you can ingest “the truth that makes you free” from Jesus, who came down from heaven to let us know what God really thinks?
And if the preacher isn’t preaching that “word,” but only his own opinions, then he is one of those “snakes and vipers” Jesus talked about.
But what about the inconvenience and the shortcomings of the church?
Well, Jesus called the church his “body.” He also made the astounding prediction that the “gates of hell” would not prevail against the church. Then he went so far as to say that the church is his bride, whom he loves the way a groom loves his new bride.
If Jesus can put up with the church’s flaws and “humanness” and still love her, maybe I should, too.
The truth is that throughout history, the church has reached out to hurting humanity and desperate souls with more compassion, encouragement and help than any other organization. I wonder if people who spend so much time chronicling their life and displaying their opinions on Facebook spend an equal amount of time actually helping people in need and worshipping God?
So I guess I’ll stick with the church — not just because I’m a preacher of God’s word, but because I myself have witnessed first-hand the transforming, miraculous power of God that flows through the church into the lives of human beings.
The Rev. Gregory Bye is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Dayton. Contact him at 509-382-4662. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at email@example.com.