Jan 12, 2011

The Apostle John on Social Media

I recently read through the epistles of John and two passages struck me as relating to technology.  Particularly, John tells us that communication technology has its place, but must not replace in person contact.
Here's 2 John 12:
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 13-14 is almost identical.

Let's walk through this.
First, John wrote a series of letters, so he is obviously not opposed to the "social media" technology of the day. Letters could travel in a matter of weeks or days via the Roman roads or shipping lanes - a very short period of time in the day. John is apparently in favor of the technology as he uses it to communicate theological truths to a group of people.

Second, he has much to communicate to his recipients, but doesn't want to use the mediating technology for that purpose. Why? It isn't speed or that he couldn't have communicated it as well as the other things he communicated. It was because he preferred to talk face to face, to share their presence. This would involve sharing in their hospitality as he was coming to them, to spend time in fellowship with them.

Third, this communication and fellowship in person is what would make his joy and his recipients' joy complete. Was the letter beneficial? Certainly, or John would not have written. But it was not as good as being physically together.

So what Biblical principles do we take from this? Communication technology is a good thing. It can allow people to communicate over long distances to keep up with each other and to encourage each other in faith and for many other purposes. But, it is not the equal of physically being present. We must not let "social media" or any other communication technology replace real, messy physical contact with our family and friends. The local church is a part of this - I do not believe it possible to have "complete joy" in a virtual church, whether via TV, Second Life, or whatever other medium we can dream up. When your family has a new baby, virtual church members can't come over, bring you a casserole, mow your yard, or get to hold him with you, making our joy (yours and theirs) complete in love and service.

Do you think these passages speak to our use of Facebook, texting, Twitter, Skype, etc.?

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