Jesus Is Not an Online Boyfriend

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.

10 Comments

Anissa

12

Anissa commented…

hey that was pretty encouraging. I love the internet and how it has been helpful to hear other people opinions and i love all the conversations its opened up. BUT I also need the reminder that while my relationship with Jesus is sometimes encouraged by internet time it's really when i spend intimate time with the Lord that I grow. Thanks.

Aly Lewis

2

Aly Lewis commented…

Ahhhh, this definitely resonates with me.

Ive recently discovered that blogging has changed my prayer
lifeand not for good. I've found I've been desperately wanting God to speak to me not because I legitimately want more of
him, but because I want more to write.

Basically, Ive been praying so I have something to write
instead of writing/sharing out of the overflow of my prayer life. Ive made prayerand
my relationship with Goda means to an end--like your online boyfriend analogy.Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder that God is more concerned with our hearts their our online lives. Great article!

85,389

wanderluster commented…

"This lustful pseudo-gospel-life sometimes cheapens the depths of what it means to internalize and externalize the love of God." Amen. I needed to hear this today.

Tim, I think you're completely right that Christians should not gather in "holy huddles" and avoid interacting with and loving the lost. But I think you're misunderstanding Kurt's underlying point. He's encouraging both solitude (or personal meditation which David, Jesus, and other people in Scripture seem to advocate) AND community involvement ("Ask God how you might take Christs love into your
neighborhood and city. And simply be with the Holy Spirit in the real
world.")

I don't think he's implicitly denying that Christians isolate themselves from other people in the ways you point out, he's simply suggesting that the internet is one of the biggest time-suckers we deal with today. But thanks, Tim for the reminder that there are multiple ways we avoid practical involvement in building the kingdom.

Josh Hailes

7

Josh Hailes commented…

Great response. Though I'd be careful with the last statement you made. I think that there's a certian frantic nature about the internet - get your comments up first, post the latest thing, make sure you're up to date and consuming as much as possible. Whereas sitting under a tree with your bible is something that relaxes your brain, it's a source or rest (at least for me). I think you can become hyper-spiritual by consuming yourself online, but it's much more difficult to become hyper-spiritual from reading your bible too much. I think the more time you invest with God, as a relationship, non-intellectually, the closer you'll become to his humble, loving, serving character.

Shannon Richey

2

Shannon Richey commented…

Thanks...I find that I spend more time online talking *about* God than talking *to* Him sometimes. I'm grateful for the reminder.

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