I did something recently that was useful, stereotypically middle-aged, and surprisingly emotional; I went back and read through what I have written on social media over the last couple of years; Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs. And my conclusion? I suck.
No, seriously. Try as I might, I’ve used the tool of social media to sin against God and against my neighbor. I’ve taken shots at thinly veiled “opponents”, I’ve questioned motives, and I’ve used it to feed my ever-hungry ego. And I’m guessing you have too.
No, not everything I do on social media is so blatantly (and intentionally) negative. In fact, most of it is meant positively. I use this blog and social media as a platform to proclaim the gospel. I use social media as a way to keep in touch and share pictures with friends and family around the world. But scripture teaches me that as a fallen man, even my “good” works are to be repented of as they are so obviously (as we’ll see below) tainted with sin.
With that, I’d like to take a few minutes this week to talk about how understanding the “Three Uses of the Law” allows us to use social media in a powerful, powerful way.
In short, there are three uses of the law: As a Curb, as a Mirror, and as a Guide.
Let me explain with the following, excellent, summary from Pastor Mark Schroeder:
CURB: The Law is a curb. Like a curb, it helps to keep us from going off the road and hurting ourselves and each others. The Law has penalties. The Reformers called this use of the Law the political or civil use. The Law’s civil use civilizes us because we need to be! As James Madison wrote, there has to be government because men are not angels. It curtails externally because we would murder, thieve, and whore against each other at random and that is the world envisioned in the novel, Lord of the Flies. There is a limit and it is the No of the Law: see Matthew 5: 21-37. “Just ask yourself the question: which came first, the first limit on speed or the first accident? It is the accident which is judged to be bad. And then speed limits are established in the effort to limit the evil of accidents.” (Pr. Lou Smith)
MIRROR: The Law is a mirror. “The Law is but a mirror bright to bring the inbred sin to light that lurks within our nature” (hymn #297, LBW, ‘Salvation Unto Us Has Come’) Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Grayis about a very handsome man who has a portrait painted of himself. He puts it into the attic and years later, still handsome, looks at and realizes his death and sin. This is what the Law does internally. “…through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) “…if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7: 7) The Reformers called this the spiritual use of the Law: to show us our sin and that sin is death and the dead can not save themselves.
GUIDE: The Word of Law is a guide. “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm 119: 105. We are called to preach and teach the law (see St. Matthew 5: 19), so that the Gospel and good works be plain: they come from faith in Jesus Christ alone. The 10 Commandments show us if our good works are truly pleasing to the Lord. An old saying: “No one became good by act of Parliament”. We only live in love, and not fear of punishment, because of the only One Who fulfilled the Law. When we do so fear of what we’ve done, turn not to your self, but turn to the Lord: repent!
So, the law is for ALL men as a curb in that it keeps us from complete anarchy in society.
It’s for ALL men to see their sin in light of the perfection required by the law.
It’s for BELIEVERS as we look to the perfection of the law as a guide to living (though we will continue to fall far, far short each day.)
The mirror part is tough. I can think of few things more painful than taking a serious look at yourself in the mirror.. especially the mirror of God’s perfection in the law. But just as we need to see flaws in the mirror to make a change, we need the mirror of the law to drive us to the one who saves. This may be a tough article to read (Lord knows it was tough to write!) and you can write it off as Marc being all of the things below, but scripture makes it pretty clear that all of us fail here. Maybe in varying degrees when compared to each other (we all have “those” fb friends)… but all fail completely in light of the perfection required in the law.. that we love God with all our hearts and love our neighbor as ourself.
Social media has been an excellent mirror for me lately, and I’ll walk through several types of posts.. see if any of them hit home for you as well.
1. I’m awesome.
I go to awesome places (and people pay me to go there, because I’m so awesome), I buy awesome things (and deserve them because I’m awesome). I have awesome kids (because I’m an awesome Dad). And I have a beautiful wife (because beautiful women love awesome guys). I sometimes meet famous people (because awesome people go to the same awesome places.)
Yet.. that’s when I’m on a “high”. That’s when things are going well. What about the day to day pedestrian life most of us live?
2. I’m sarcastic.
I sarcastically rail against people who don’t agree with me on politics, faith, parenting, or even “really” important things like having the audacity to cheer for the sports teams where they grew up instead of where I grew up.
3. I’m needy and prideful.
I do it rarely, but sometimes I post flattering pictures of myself. (My humble midwest upbringing usually demands I make a goofy face, or have other people in the picture, but I do it.) I post pictures of me doing cool stuff with my kids (often taking these pictures instead of actually enjoying the time with them) to show what an awesome Dad I am.
So, the mirror of the law shows me my sin.. through social media.
I don’t love God with all my heart; I often love my pride or comfort more. And I certainly don’t love you as I love myself, and find my human nature recoils in envy when I see you post something that I wish I had, or wish I could do.
Do you do these? Out of pride? Out of envy? Out of bitterness?
Ladies, do you post “selfies” with sultry faces? Why? Is that really the attention you want? Who are you looking to for validation? What’s your goal here? And Married sisters? Seriously?
Are you incessantly railing on political issues? Why? Are you actually engaging in dialog to make a difference, or just throwing rocks at straw men?
Are you posting sentimental “Jesus” stuff on your wall about how the bad guys are out to get christians? Why? Are you actually reading your bible and proclaiming the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins?
(This is a pet peeve of mine. Is the “Jesus” stuff you’re posting actually scripture or just sappy, sentimental snippets. Do these match the tone of the political stuff you’re posting?)
In the end, it comes back (as it always does) to the sin of pride.
I want feedback from people to feed my pride.
I want to proclaim my political beliefs and project my fears about the bad-guy-of-the-day into the world because of pride.
I want to rail against and question the motives of those who disagree with me because of pride.
This post might be a bit too raw. Maybe i’m hanging it out there too far. Maybe we just don’t talk, out loud, about these things. Maybe it’s just me……
But maybe it’s not. Maybe this will hit home and lift the mirror of the law to brothers and sisters in Christ to see our need to seek our worth and validation only in the cross of Christ and to flee there for forgiveness.