Flex: Lutherans on Facebook
by Jonathan Kohlmeier
There are more than 2.6 billion active users on Facebook. People from all over the world, of many different religions and having a variety of worldviews, log into the same website to communicate with others every single day. In many ways, that makes it even harder to dare to be Lutheran than it is in our daily physical lives.
Many people use Facebook and other social media as a way to keep in touch with friends, family, people with the same interests and favorite celebrities. Others use it for self-promotion or as a place to express their opinions. Still others use social media as a virtual scrapbook of things going on in their lives or things that they find interesting.
Amidst those more than 2.6 billion Facebook users, how are we supposed to dare to be Lutheran on Facebook? How do we do it on any social media platform? We do it the same way as we dare to be Lutheran in real life--through the Small Catechism as a baptized child of God! We are baptized children of God at home, at school, at church, and wherever else we may be, even if that is a virtual reality.
Internet and social media in particular add yet another forum where love of God and neighbor are often found in short supply. In addition, it is very easy for Facebook to become an idol. We can spend hours and hours on there, all the while shirking our vocations as children, students, and baptized children of God. We completely disregard the Eighth Commandment. We gossip about what our Facebook friends are posting, we don't defend our neighbor, we rarely speak well of them and we definitely don't explain everything in the kindest way. We covet our neighbors' lives. We wish we were as happy as they appear to be. "Just read their profiles, after all!" We covet their possessions and the people in their lives. We don't receive everything as gift from God and we fall into anxiety and unbelief. Everyone else's lives seem so much better than our own. Repent! Stop hating your neighbor. Stop living as if Christ did not die and rise for you.
Even though it might magnify our constant failure to keep God's Law, Facebook is a First Article gift of God. It truly is a great communication tool. It has made the world so much smaller. Distance means very little when, with the click of a mouse, you can keep up with those who are geographically far away. It is a great resource for planning events, sharing pictures and videos and keeping up on what your favorite celebrities or organizations are up to. It provides another platform to discuss things that are important to you. Sports fans connect with sports fans and Lutherans connect with Lutherans from all over the world! There are great Facebook pages (http://facebook.com/higherthings) that post resources which confess the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you.
As we scroll through our newsfeed, we are reminded to pray for those in our lives, in the midst of good times and bad. Even though we are more connected to those who are far away from us than we have ever been before, sometimes we feel alone sitting at our computers. The church's prayers are often written in first person plural. When we pray those words, "Our Father. . ." we are joined with the whole Church--in a much more real way than 1s and 0s across the internet. We are with the whole Church in Christ. When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we are praying it both for ourselves and for the Church. When others pray they are praying for themselves and for you!
Although Facebook is virtual, we still live as those who are baptized. Our sinful Old Adam is daily drowned by repentance and a new man is risen to live in righteousness. We have been set free from sin--not so that we can run right back to that from which we have been set free. Rather, we are free to keep the Law of God and live forever. In Christ--in our Baptism--we do keep the law, both on Facebook and in all other aspects of our lives.
While Facebook is a great virtual reality, it should not replace those things that are real. You can discuss a lot of theology on Facebook but that is still not where Christ has promised to be. It does not replace receiving His gifts in church each week. Christ comes to you, not virtually, but truly in His Body in the Lord's Supper. His Word is delivered into your ears. His Body and Blood are placed into your mouth. You are freely given forgiveness of your sins and eternal life in a very real and physical way.
Facebook is a great gift, but with a couple keystrokes it could be gone. Your hope, truth, trust, and life are much more certain and sure than that. They are found in Christ, into whose death and resurrection you have been baptized!
Jonathan Kohlmeier is the former webmaster for Higher Things and lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
This article was originally published in the summer 2012 issue of Higher Things Magazine. Facebook stat was updated from 800 million to 2.6 billion.
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