The other day, I read an article about the impacts social media has on our culture. As a bit of a tongue-and-cheek spoof, the author highlighted four suggestions on how to successfully take pictures as a way to make your friends jealous on Instagram. Have you tried these poses?
- Stand on the edge of a dock, cliff, bridge, mountainside (remember to turn your back to the camera so it’s obvious you’re pondering creation).
- Take an overhead shot of some exotic meal that probably looks better than it tastes.
- Laugh at something with your head turned.
- Dangle your feet off of something.
Sadly, I can neither confirm nor deny such social media activity. At heart, through social media, we carefully present ourselves in the way we want others to perceive us, placing filters over our lives to create the image we seek to portray. Just this morning if you logged in Facebook, you may have seen photos of family gatherings, vacations, weddings, meals eaten, or even loads of pet pictures (yes, I am guilty of this one! Ranger even has his own Instagram @Ranger_Brittany; he even has 18 followers #shamelessplug). Often, our pictures posted are doctored with filters, stories shared are embellished and crafted to reveal the reality the one sharing seeks to portray to others.
But at what cost?
Sure, it may seem innocent enough. Stories and pictures are windows into the soul, revealing something darker stirring inside. There is a grave danger hidden in the filters we carefully place over our lives. Over time, as we live these self-created worlds, God can become filtered out in deference to the world of our own making. Truth becomes blurred. Comparing pictures we see to the reality going on in our life, there can be a shattering disconnect. This is called coveting, and yes, it is sin. To covet is: “to eagerly yearn, seek, and strive for something that is not ours.” Theologian, Gerhard Forde, describes such moments as an upward fall, a striving to be like God, calling the shots as we desire, so as to become the seeming author of our life. In the process of striving upward, we fall into sin, knocking God off His rightful throne to take His place. Martin Luther reminds us in the Small Catechism: “To fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” We can lose ourselves in the process of striving to be something we are not. We forget we are a child of the Almighty God, precious and loved inside and out. You are not a mistake, but bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20). Stop striving to be something you are not and start finding your God-given identity in the Creator rather than the created. Be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10).
Here are the harder questions:
- Are you living a “hashtag” faith?
- Is faith and church attendance more about how we look to others (obligation) or about a relationship with our Maker (response)?
- What are the filters you are placing over Jesus? Over others in the Body?
Here is the thing: Let God, be God!
One of the truths I so appreciate about the Lenten season is its way of stripping away the false idols surrounding our hearts and minds. The cross is an instrument of death, its sole purpose is to kill the one on its intersecting beams. Jesus invites us: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:24-25) As one takes up the cross and follows Christ, that cross seeks to put to death the false gods and idols in your life. This old, rugged cross reaches into our sin—our brokenness, pride, insecurities, anger, fears, worries—and these filters are put to death at the crux of the cross. Into these places of death, God’s at work to bring about a resurrection. Paul reminds us: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
As we begin another Lenten journey with Jesus, we follow a God who removed the veil, allowing us to glimpse behind the curtain through His Word to glimpse upon the real Jesus: a humble, grace-filled, Savior. Jesus felt real pain as nails are pounded through skin and bone, he witnessed the betrayal and scattering of His closest disciples, and as our Lord hung sacrificially on the cross, He felt utter brokenness and rejection as His heavenly Father turned His back on Jesus. The ordinary tools of a carpenter—nails, spear, wood—become something more in the hands of the Master Craftsman. Jesus breathes His last.
The world goes dark, stunned. The temple shakes, its inner veil tears from top to bottom. There is nothing filtered about this moment: It is raw, intimate, real. There is nothing filtered about our sin: It kills, separates, destroys. The answer to the human dilemma is Jesus.
It is time to put down the facades. Will the real sinner please stand up? If you are reading this, this is you! It is me, too. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). But the greatest promise we receive during Lent is the reminder that God does not leave us nor forsake us (Deut 31:6; Heb 13:5-6), through a cross and empty tomb, He cuts through the earthly, self-imposed facades of sin in our heart in order to shape us into something new. He chose the nails for you, my friend, that you may have life. Not just any life, but a forever life with our Savior! Amen!
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)