Fruit of the Spirit:
Disaster Relief – United States and Caribbean
Bible Memory Verse:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””
(Jn. 13:34-35, NASB)
1 Corinthians 13
Over the last week, there has been testimony in Washington, DC regarding social media. In the last month, we have learned about how nearly 100 million peoples’ online activities may have been hacked, manipulated, infiltrated, covertly acquired and ultimately used for profit by politicians, rogue nations and corporations. And in the last 18 months, there have been daily stories about how the 2016 elections may have been unduly affected through fake news, hackers, social media and bad actors.
Have you ever wondered the following questions?
Why do we post the most intimate, private and personal details of our lives online?
Why do we feel the need to share and overshare with complete strangers all over the world?
Why do we want to brag on social media, carefully curating a life designed to make others envious and covetous?
Why have we acquiesced the control and power over our lives to social networks?
Why do people bully, insult, attack, disparage and threaten others online, in tweets, comments and posts?
Why do people feel worse off after spending time online?
Why are some people so desperate for “likes” and “followers” that they will say and do anything just to get attention?
What is derived from endless posts on social media?
How much time is wasted by the average person on social media each day? Each month? Each year? How much time will the average person waste online over the course of their lives?
Why do some people feel the never-ending need to boast about their lives on social media, offering the most personal and private details for public consumption, gushing over their bountiful blessings and success?
In talking about what love is this week, we have to take a look at what love is not.
Which means a difficult look at the dark web.
No, not that dark web, where people are buying and selling all of our drivers licenses, social security numbers and credit card information after yet another security breach.
The dark web where people are boasting, bragging, insulting, attacking, and belittling each other.
THAT dark web.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote a chapter that is read at many weddings – the Love Chapter, as it is commonly known.
While it is often read at weddings, it’s not really about romantic love – it’s more about agape love. Of course, selfless love is an excellent topic as a couple is preparing to wed, because marriage requires sacrifice, compromise and putting each other and the marriage first.
But the Apostle Paul wasn’t addressing two love-bird Corinthians who were standing at the altar on a sun dappled beach at their destination wedding on the Aegean Sea.
Instead, he was writing to the cranky, cantankerous and carnal Corinthians – a hot mess of a people who just couldn’t seem to get along and were constantly bickering and fussing, arguing over the nonessentials and not having a whole lot of love in their hearts for one another. The Corinthians were definitely not the poster children of love and kindness.
While we’ll talk about agape love a bit today, we’ll talk about the four main types of love we read about in the Bible next time we meet. You may already know what they are, but here’s a brief look at what we’ll talk about next time.
Eros is romantic love, like the kind shared between a husband and wife.
Philia is brotherly love, like love that is shared between friends. This is love that is concerned about each other’s well-being and supporting and helping each other.
Storge love is an affectionate love of empathy and nurturing.
Agape is selfless or unconditional love. It is at its core and essence pure and gracious love. It is not needing or asking for anything in return – it is simply giving and caring for another. This is the love that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit show us and it is the love that we are to show one another. It is love for the sake of love. Agape love just is.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul wrote the following:
“ Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
(1 Cor. 13:4-7, NASB)
Paul briefly tells us what love IS – patient and kind.
But then, Paul provides us with a long list of what love IS NOT.
Love is not jealous.
Love does not brag.
Love is not arrogant.
Love does not act unbecomingly.
Love does not seek its own.
Love is not provoked.
Love does not take into account a wrong suffered.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
If you would, I’d like you to picture a typical day of social media, and then re-read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time reconciling social media with the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
It seems that social media is all about bragging, boasting, “wrecking,” attacking, insulting, twitter wars, humblebrags, frenemies, carefully curated collections of awesomeness, bullying, pranks, mean comments, callousness, cruelty and ad hominem jabs.
What would Jesus think about social media? What would Jesus think about the back and forth shade throwing, the attacks, the brags, the superficial daily presentations of clothes, canines, couture and culinary creations?
What if Jesus were looking over all of our shoulders as we type tweets, post pics on Instagram, lob attacks on Snapchat and present a faux version of ourselves to the world?
Would we be so quick to post to social media if we had to read it aloud to God before we clicked?
He is looking over our shoulders. And He’s looking in our hearts and our minds. And He’s already read it before we click it. He already knows what’s in our thoughts before we say or type it.
We as followers of Christ should take a look at social media, our role in it and have a conversation about how we can and must lead by example.
As many have said in recent days, on social media, we are the product. We generate the content with posts, updates, status reports, tweets, comments, pictures and conversations. Without us, there is no content. Perhaps then, we should examine the content of our online communications to see if they reflect a people after God’s own heart.
For far too many, social media has become a way to attack others, bully those who are different, brag about one’s self, present a falsified and embellished version of life, boast about one’s possessions with no concern for the suffering in the world, humblebrag about charity and philanthropic activities on fundraising sites and self-promote one’s self in the virtual world of the Internet.
Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if people boasted in real life like they do online?
Can you imagine someone walking up to you that you haven’t seen in months and they immediately begin to boast and brag about themselves, about their life, their spouse or significant other, showed you photos of their home remodel and vacation to Europe, humblebragged about how they had to buy a whole new wardrobe because of their epic gluten-free diet and ballet and spin class workout, told you about how they bought ten total strangers coffee in the drive-thru yesterday – like they do every Friday, talked about their nonstop volunteering all over the community and bragged about being Volunteer of the Year (again!), showed you all their fabulous photo memories for Throwback Thursday, talked about how their kids are winning at absolutely everything and how they are so exhausted from all the awards ceremonies they have to go to this year for their kiddos and flashed their jewelry/clothes/new car/tech gadgets/etc.
All before you could even say hello.
We don’t act like this in real life. (let’s hope!)
So, why do people act like this online? Why is there such a fake, curated, perfect persona presented for all the world to see?
Why do people feel comfortable bragging and boasting online when they would be much less likely to do so in-person?
And why are a lot of those braggers and boasters people who call themselves followers of Christ – yet they are acting in a way so contrary to the meek, humble and loving lifestyle that Jesus calls us to?
What does God say we should boast in, anyway?
According to God’s Word, we should boast in an instrument of torture that was used to crucify our Savior.
God tells us to boast only in Christ and in His death for our sins.
Not in our blessings, accomplishments, relationships with others, homes, jewelry, cars, careers, educations, appearances, volunteering, giving, serving, church attendance, trips, celebrities we have met, meals we prepared, fancy restaurants we ate at, the antics and accomplishments of our children, our latest acquisition unboxed for all to see, our intelligence, our personality, our front yards, our holiday celebrations, our elves on shelves, our extravagant birthdays, how wonderful our significant other is, our #epic life or how “A-mazing” our world looks.
God calls us to boast only in the cross of our Lord.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote the following:
“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:11-14, NASB)
While others were boasting of their religiosity, Paul would not do so. Over and over again, Paul’s letters drew the readers’ attention only to Jesus. When his enemies and opponents would ridicule him, when they challenged and questioned his credentials, when they sought to antagonize him and draw him into a debate, Paul would note all that he could brag about – but then declare that all of that was nothing and it was nothing compared to Christ.
“although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil. 3:4-7, NASB)
We are to boast…
In Christ Alone.
Technology is an amazing tool we have to use in our society today. The problem isn’t the technology. It is merely a tool that can be used for good or bad. It’s no different than any other tool.
The problem is in how we use technology. The issue that is before us as a society right now is how we will use this very powerful tool going forward.
We can use it to encourage each other, to support each other, to inform, educate, and to communicate with one another.
In natural disasters, technology has proven itself to be a tremendous blessing with the power to help, heal and even save lives.
We saw it last year during the wildfires in California and the storms and hurricanes in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.
Neighbors were able to help each other by sending out hundreds of boats to save people from flooding homes by using social media to coordinate rescues. People were able to communicate and share critical information about evacuations, places to bring pets and livestock, updated fire escape routes and newly opened shelters throughout the affected regions in real time.
In these cases, people harnessed the power of technology and social media to help and support each other.
But sadly, technology was also used to attack the victims of the natural disasters. People tweeted insults and attacks implying that the disaster was the result of who they voted for and many people politicized the natural disasters, including elected officials who tweeted attacks and played the blame game rather than offering condolences and making commitments to rebuild.
We now know a lot more about how social media works and how our information has been monetized and sold to applications and organizations literally all over the world.
After the recent revelations about social media firms, we now better understand that all those pictures, likes, clicks and posts were basically used by the social media companies to develop a totally gratis demographic picture of each of us so that they could sell our data and use us as a marketing tool available to both legitimate and unscrupulous individuals and companies seeking to target us for votes, purchases, support, etc. They used all our information – freely and generously provided by us – to make billions of dollars, to sell their products, to target us for services and products, to glean information about us and possibly even to change the outcome of a presidential election.
We now can see that many of us were manipulated by fake news stories that were placed on social media sites and feeds and that we were bombarded with microtargeted advertising designed to appeal to segmented groups, often with the sole purpose being to divide and disrupt us.
It is increasingly clear that while many of us thought we were communicating our perfectly curated lives in a manipulative and prideful display of arrogance and abundance, we were in fact the ones being used and manipulated by companies that wanted to scrape our data and that of our friends, associates and family members.
The Bible says in the book of Proverbs that:
“Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
(Prov. 16:18, NASB)
It seems like now is a really good time for us to take a look at our social media and online behavior and ask ourselves some really difficult questions about why we post, what we post, what we hope to gain from our posts, to examine if our posts are made out of pride and arrogance – and even ask God what He thinks about our social media life.
According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism in response to the question of what the chief end of man is,
“A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
It is time for us as followers of Christ to ask ourselves if our online behavior reflects our relationship with God, with Christ and with the Holy Spirit. We must ask ourselves if our posts, tweets and chats are edifying to God and to one another. We should consider if we are acting as good stewards of our time, talents and treasures in the time we spend online.
And perhaps most significantly and challenging of all, we must ask ourselves the very hard question of whether our social media lifestyle is bringing glory to God – or if it is merely bringing glory to ourselves. Are we boasting in ourselves – or are we boasting only in the cross of Jesus Christ?
These are tough questions, but as Christ followers, we have a duty to ask and answer these questions and to live a life that draws people to Christ.
If we are bragging and boasting about our lives online and living selfish, indulgent and prideful lives, we may very well be repelling people from Christ rather than inviting and leading them to Him.
In Psalm 90, we are reminded of the brevity of life and the urgency of living out our calling and purpose.
“So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12 NASB)
Moses ends the psalm with the following petition to God:
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.” (Ps. 90:17, NASB)
May the favor of the Lord our God be upon us today. And may God confirm the work of our hands. May we use our hands to bless, to encourage, to build, to create, to nurture, to guide, to communicate, to lift up, to heal, to help, to hug and to love. And when we use our hands to post, to tweet, to upload and to type, may we do so with love, humility and grace – seeking to bless and glorify God in all things, including our social media postings.
- How do you feel after you have read social media posts that are “braggy?” Why do you think some people like to post things on social media that are boastful and prideful? What do you think the effect is on other people, particularly on those who are discouraged or struggling or going through a hard time?
Could these posts be hurting people? If so, is the attention that one receives from bragging posts worth the pain it causes another in your social circle who reads your constantly bragging, boasting and self-centered posts? Would you brag in-person about your latest shopping spree to a friend who just lost their job? Would you boast of all your kids’ accomplishments and successes to someone whose child is struggling? Would you go on and on about your awesome fitness regime and diet plan to a family member fighting cancer and going through chemo? Would you argue nonstop about politics with a loved one in-person, each time you talk bringing up quotes, making attacks, insulting their beliefs and philosophies and ridiculing them?
If we wouldn’t act like this in-person, why might we think it is OK to do so online?
- How do you feel after you read posts or comments that are insulting or which bully other people?
- Have you ever regretted posting something on social media? What was it about your post(s) that you regretted sharing?
- Have your friendships or relationships with family members and loved ones changed as a result of social media posts? Have you ever unfriended or blocked someone as a result of their social media posts? How did you feel about those relationships based on the conflict caused by social media?
- Do you think people overshare online? If so, why do you think people are prone to tell personal details with complete strangers?
- Read Ephesians 4:29-32.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:29-32, NASB)
How should we apply these verses to our online and social media lives?
How can the words that come out of our mouths (and the words we type with our fingers) hurt both us and others?
Have you ever felt more negative after saying or writing unwholesome, angry, bitter, resentful or negative comments?
Do you think negativity is contagious? Is hate contagious?
Is your social media life in obedience to Eph. 4:29-32? If not, what steps can you take to ensure your social media presence honors and glorifies God?
- God’s Word teaches us that our giving should be done privately and that we should not give seeking attention, gratitude or recognition.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said ““Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:1-4, NASB)
Interestingly, Jesus also taught that we should:
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16, NASB)
How can you reconcile these two lessons that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount?
How can we give in a way that is private and discreet and yet also let our light shine so that people will see our good works and glorify God?
Are public fundraising sites which announce who gave how much contradictory to Christ’s teachings about discreet philanthropy? Do you think that some people give to be recognized? Do you make your gifts on fundraising sites anonymously? Why or why not?
If we aren’t to brag about how much we gave to which group or individual, then how do you think God wants us to let our light shine before men? Is Jesus talking about a lifestyle that honors Him? Do you think this is more of an every-day way of living rather than an online boasting presence?
Are there times when making a public pronouncement of our support for a person can be honoring to God and can be done in a way so we avoid seeking recognition for the amount of our contribution?
Does it sometimes feel like celebrity and public figure tweets or posts have become obligatory and rote and are being managed by social media teams? If so, do these feel less authentic and organic than other types of more “real” social media posts?
- What does our society say that love is? Some examples might be the never-ending social media feed of prom-posals, elaborately staged engagement proposals taking over city streets and public squares, over-the-top first dances immediately posted online, extravagant gifts unboxed for all the world to envy, humblebrags about hubs or wifey or online declarations of the most perfect love and absolute happily ever after?
- What does God’s Word say love is? If you have ten minutes, do a brief word search of “love” either online or in a Bible concordance. Look up some of the examples and write them down in the space below. You can also begin with some of the verses cited in today’s study.
- What do you say love is? What does romantic love look like? Brotherly love? Familiarity/Empathy love? Agape (selfless) love?
- In Philippians 3:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul teaches us that as followers of Christ, we are citizens of heaven and ambassadors of Christ. How is your social media life representing Christ on earth? When people look at your posts, pics and tweets, do they see you as Christ’s ambassador? Would you feel comfortable showing God your social media feed and/or comments you have made on articles or websites?
- Do you recall reading or seeing social media posts about natural disasters in the last year in which the victims and survivors were mocked, ridiculed or even blamed for their situations based on how they voted? If you recall seeing these posts, how did they make you feel? How do you think these posts might have made victims and survivors feel as they tried to recover and rebuild their lives?
- Do you think that as followers of Christ we can have an online presence that honors and glorifies God? If you could write a letter to your younger social media self, what would you advise yourself to do differently with regard to social media? What changes would you make to your social media presence and habits?
- In light of your response to the above question, is there anything that you would like to change today about your social media habits and presence? If so, map out a plan and a list of things you want to do differently (more privacy, less bragging, kinder and gentler posts, fewer personal photos, friendlier comments, remembering the Golden Rule of treating people the way you want to be treated, thinking before typing, etc.) and keep it handy before your next post or update.
You may have learned the “True, Kind and Necessary” rule. Before you say or post something, ask yourself if it is true AND kind AND necessary. If it is all three things, then this is probably something that is appropriate to post and which will be edifying and helpful and will be kind and friendly. If what you intend to post does not meet all three criteria, then it probably will not be edifying or helpful and it might hurt someone. If it’s not true, kind and necessary, just don’t say or type it!
- If you haven’t already, consider downloading social media logs so you can review the dossiers being kept about you online. Is there anything you want to delete? If you want to delete online profiles and posts, there have been many articles in recent weeks about downloading logs and deleting some or all of the information posted on various social media websites. These can be found with a fairly quick search and can help you make the changes you want to make to your online profiles and histories.
- This week, consider keeping a log of your online behavior, including comments and social media postings. This doesn’t have to be too specific – just a brief log of your habits to help you better understand how you spend your time online and to identify possible changes you want to make in your online behavior and habits. Some information you may want to include could be the following:
Were you on a phone, computer or tablet?
Were you at home/work/school/somewhere else?
How much time did you spend each time you were online?
What sites did you visit?
Did you post anything while you were online (comments, status updates, pictures, tweet, etc.)?
How did you feel after being online each time?
Was there something you “should” have been doing while you were online (chores, paying attention to a class lecture, work, homework, etc.) but which you procrastinated doing so you could spend time online?
This can be like a food/exercise log and it may help you better account for your time and emotions each day. Our online behaviors can affect our moods, feelings, attitudes and self-esteem. Additionally, you may find that you spend more time online than you realized, which may help you make changes to your online behavior that will enable you to accomplish more of your goals and responsibilities.
You might want to write everything down on a piece of paper that you keep with you this week. You don’t have to share it with anyone – it’s just for your learning and growing. Be honest about your time and also about how you feel when you are online.
- During your time online this week, consider choosing one of the areas affected by natural disasters last year to research how things are now and how you can be in prayer for the people in that area. You might do a search for Houston and Hurricane Harvey, Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria, Florida, the US Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and Hurricane Irma and the wildfires in Ventura County/Ojai. Look for current articles detailing the recovery and rebuilding process and articles and videos introducing you to survivors of the natural disasters and giving updates on their situation and recovery efforts. You may want to add the people you read about to your prayer list this week and continue to be in prayer for the people in that region affected by the disaster as well as the groups helping them rebuild. If you are financially able to do so, you may consider making a gift to one of the organizations or ministries continuing to serve and help the people of the region as they recover from last year’s natural disasters. You could also send a note of encouragement to the people you read about and find a ministry or non-profit that may be able to pass along your note or card. It might sound insignificant, but just knowing that people care about you and are praying for you is very powerful and often can infuse people with hope and encouragement to keep going in the midst of a long and difficult trial.
- Did you have a chance to show love to someone this past week? If so, how did you feel? Do you feel like you made a difference? If you didn’t have a chance this past week, could you share a kind word or do something nice for someone in the week ahead?
- If you are able, you may wish to enjoy some strawberries this week and as you do, be in prayer for the people who grow and harvest the strawberries. Strawberries grow abundantly in California and Texas, two of the places devastated by last year’s natural disasters. Consider purchasing some berries at your local grocer or farmer’s market – and as you purchase, clean, prepare and enjoy them, be praying for the hands that have nurtured those strawberries so you might enjoy them. You can enjoy something with fresh berries, or even strawberry ice cream, a strawberry smoothie, strawberry jam or strawberry yogurt! This is just a tangible way for us to remember to pray for the people in our prayer focus and to seek to love and care for each other, loving all our neighbors as Jesus calls us to.
“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”