June 11, 2009
The Redemptive Value of Facebook
by Mike Pohlman, Editor, Christianity.com
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. -Matthew 5:14-16
Can Facebook be redemptive? In other words, can this social networking phenomenon be a means of helping Christians grow in grace? Can it be spiritually edifying? Can it promote godliness?
My "yes," of course, is not without qualification. I realize Facebook can be used for banal, unhelpful purposes. (Carl Trueman, for example, offers a good critique of our Web 2.0 world.) But today God's grace was extended to me through the Internet; today Facebook was a blessing. Let me explain.
I was tagged in a friend's list of "25 Random Things About Me."* While I have yet to fill out one of these lists, I have enjoyed reading them. It is a good (and efficient) way to learn interesting things about a person. And these lists are all the more intriguing when you haven't kept up with someone for, say, twenty years.
The particular list opened with this amazing declaration: "I would change nothing about my life!"
How many people can say that about their life? It's one thing to say, "I love my life." Or, "I have a great life." Or, "I'm living the good life." But to say, "I would change nothing about my life"? That got my attention.
The list of "random" things proceeded with unmistakable joy.
24. "I am very happy."
18. "I am thrilled that I have gotten in touch with so many family members and friends on facebook."
14. "I have two dogs and a cat. I am not big on pets, so having them is a testament to how much I love my children."
13. "I don't feel that I could have a more wonderful husband."
12. "I have four children and wish I had more.....6 would have been nice!"
7. "A perfect day for me is spent with my husband and children."
Reading these things was inspiring as they spoke to my friend's deep love for her family. I smiled as I recalled how I used to play little league baseball and Pop Warner football with her husband. Now we both had four kids. More importantly, I found myself thinking about my wife and children and what a blessing they are to me. But then, as I continued down the list, I ran into these sobering statements:
6. "It is a good thing that my life will never be the way it was before I was diagnosed with cancer."
5. "My life will never be the way it was before I was diagnosed with cancer."
I didn't know my friend had been diagnosed with cancer. I paused to let it sink in. Cancer. That word has a way of arresting our attention like no other. And rarely, it seems, is gratitude accompanied with it. But here in a list of "25 Random Things" was the phrase, "It is a good thing…." How could my friend preface any mention of cancer with "It is a good thing"?
The answer came at the end of the list:
1. "The LORD is always #1."
This is the "thing" that makes all the difference in the universe. When the Lord is first in our lives then everything takes on new meaning--our marriages, parenthood, jobs, ministries, leisure time, and, yes, even cancer. We realize that nothing is truly "random." When we see our heavenly Father in His providence orchestrating all our days then we can say radical things like, "It is a good thing that my life will never be the way it was before I was diagnosed with cancer." In other words, God used cancer to help me.
In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Tami's light is shining brightly today and I'm giving glory to God for it.
[*All references to my friend's "25 Random Things" used with permission.]