BY RELEVANT GOD / FAITH May 14, 2012

Over the past few years, I’ve become a social media guy. I’m on Facebook, Twitter andwebsites almost every day. At times, I spend hours interacting withothers and producing web content about Jesus. This sort of engagementstimulates my mind and pushes me to explore the intricacies ofChristianity within Western culture. The Internet is a gift to my faith.


However, I’ve noticed a subtle and dangerous tendency with all this online activity. To explain, maybe an analogy will help.

In both my high school and college friendship groups, love boats oftentossed and turned in the turbulent winds of unstable relational tides.This ebb and flow led several people I knew into difficult break-ups withtheir significant others. Upon coping with such an identity shipwreck, many of my Christian peers found refuge in a spiritual lifeboat. Although the storms of life disrupted marital prospects, these friends found that Jesus still says, “Peace, be still.”

Many times, dropping anchor with Jesus is the most appropriate response torelational woes. Unfortunately, with this response sometimes came aphrase that still bothers me today: “I’m just dating Jesus now. He’s my only boyfriend.”

The danger of this approach to Jesus is that it quickly becomes anemotional fix by focusing only on attaching romantic feelings toexperiences with Christ. This sort of faith quickly becomes consumedwith one’s heart, filling the romantic void within, in spite of a lackof external intimate companionship. Jesus is used as an emotional coping mechanism until the next incarnated significant other comes along to set a new love boat afloat. What is lacking externally is compensated for via a metaphorical fling with the King.

Something similar happens in our online life if we are not careful.

A tendency in my life is to become consumed by the jargoning that happens in the “Christian online world.” I say things like, "Can you believe what so and so said?" "That article was so deep." "I’m soembarrassed to be a Christian right now." "I’ve gotta let my voice beheard!" "Time to sign a petition. I guess we’re not past the culture warsafter all."

By sitting in front of a laptop each day, I convince myself that such activity is adequate for getting my Jesus fix. I read inspiring items from my Facebook newsfeed, interact in theological controversies, invite folks to read my blog posts and articles—allthe while neglecting the many Kingdom possibilities around me.

An abstract, disembodied, web-based faith satisfies my longings to trulylive empowered by the Spirit of Jesus in the real world. Or so I think.

As stated earlier, the Internet is a gift to my faith. I love blogging,reading and relating to others about Jesus through social mediaoutlets. A problem emerges, however, when the online sphere dominates my Christian identity. Just like a young adult declaring Jesustheir boyfriend to fill a relational void, I attempt to get my Kingdomfill by dating Jesus online. Simultaneously, I neglect engaging in the ramifications of following Christ in my incarnated life.

Jesus invites us to be married to the tangibility of His Kingdom of love. Ibelieve that, read about it on my laptop and even sometimes buy the lie that my life is really sold out to such a vision. Often that visiondoesn’t make it past my 13-inch MacBook screen. This lustful, pseudo-Gospel life sometimes cheapens the depths of what it means to internalize and externalize the love of God.

I’m done dating Jesus online. I no longer want my relationship with God and my commitment to the way of Jesus to be mediated through the web. I desire a life shaped byspiritual practices that empower me to actually do the sorts of things I write and read about in Web 2.0. Insofar as the Internet serves as a supplement to my Christian faith and not as an insufficient substitute, I still see its value.

But may I never again give in to thelie that treating Jesus as a proverbial online boyfriend will bringabout the Kingdom of God on the Earth.

Take time today to walk away from the screen and sit under a tree with your Bible. Go for a run and chat with Jesus as you pass trees, cars, birds and squirrelson the ground. Ask God how you might take Christ’s love into yourneighborhood and city. And simply be with the Holy Spirit in the realworld. Maybe the online dates will give way to a Kingdom marriage, a whole life lived with and for Jesus Christ.

Kurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is an Anabaptist writer preparing for a church-planting project with the Brethren in Christ. He writes at The Pangea Blog and is also on Twitter and Facebook.

RELEVANT

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