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Too often, when we look at our phones, we see a simple string of notifications, alerts, and messages. We miss the larger opportunity—the opportunity to spread grace, the opportunity to share love, the opportunity to be an avenue of blessing.
We miss this because we have not seen our smart phones for what they are, nor social media for what it is. We have embraced a worldview in which all things have been drained of Spirit, and made into de-illuminated matter—and we have missed that these devices are powerful tools, allowing us to communicate across space and time, and connect instantaneously with our far-flung loved ones, and our far-flung enemies.
These tools have created new opportunities for sacred space, and yet we stride in, loudly banging our own particular drums, with our shoes still firmly planted on our feet.
We need, instead, to recognize this space as holy ground, a space which we enter with fear and trembling.
This involves both retreat and forward motion.
Like Jesus, we need to retire to quiet places to pray and wrestle with God alone.
Like Jesus, we need to go into the marketplace or the hillside, and attempt to feed the crowds with a few small fish.
Like Jesus, we need a small group around us—(ideally drawn, as his was, from every side of the political and religious spectrum)—who can help us to navigate our journey through this landscape.
In fact, the approach Jesus modeled is stunningly applicable for today. His Sermon on the Mount reads like a set of viral tweets. His exchanges with the Pharisees feel like a lot of the Facebook threads I’ve seen.
Jesus has no illusion of privacy—“Everything whispered in secret will be shouted from the rooftops” (Luke 12:3)—but he knows that there is a time and a place and an audience with which to share certain things.
We can learn from his example.
And like Jesus, sometimes we need to embrace being wrong.
In his exchange with the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28), Jesus, the King of the Jews—her virtual opposite in the religious economy—allows her to beat him in debate.
As the gospels present it, Jesus never loses a debate. He is always the smartest person in the room, always the one who can outwit any opponent. And yet, he enters into discussion, and allows this woman to rhetorically overpower him. And rather than shrinking from this, he acknowledges it, he affirms it, he speaks it loudly.
He loudly and publicly declares himself to have been wrong.
This is perhaps the most difficult, and most needed, discipline of all. In a world of ever-faster conversation, and ever-increasing stakes, it is the “narrow way which leads to life”. It is the discipline of repentance, which we have too often neglected. It is the process of death-and-resurrection, which Paul describes as the distinctively Christian way of life.
And it is something our world desperately needs. Fortunately, we have a savior who walked that road before us, and who can show us the way.