Every social media platform has its own personality. Facebook is a great vehicle to keep connected with family, but it can be filled with conspiracies. Twitter can be fun and informative, but it can also be cruel and joyless. Instagram can be a nice place to share photos and short videos with family and friends, but it can also be extraordinarily shallow.
Some people are Instagram celebrities. They have carefully cultivated an image that sells. They attract a following that allows them to sponsor products and reap benefits.
As our lives are being lived more online in recent years, many things have changed about us. Our attention spans have slowly been reduced. Our ability to be in the moment for more than just a moment has degraded. We are always connected and yet not really connected to anyone.
Those personal changes also impact our walk with God. Conspiracies and political idolatry can creep into our sojourn. Our lives, which should be filled with joy, can become heartless and harsh. Our discipleship can become hollow.
Give thought for just a moment to how our Christianity can become the worst of Instagram.
We all want to see nice pictures. Framing and lighting are important. Good Instagram posts are polished.
Christianity is often raw and unvarnished. The Bible is full of mistakes, missteps, and sins. Peter denied our Lord and was opposed by Paul (Galatians 2:11). The prophets suffered, the disciples had doubts, John tried to worship an angel.
We serve a persecuted Savior, and we will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus told his disciples, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Jesus expects those who choose to follow him to first count the cost (Luke 14:25-33). We cannot gloss over the difficulties of the Way.
Good Instagram posts are entertaining. There are amazing musicians and spectacular sports highlights on Instagram.
It can be tempting to try to make Christianity entertaining. Rewarding? Yes! Entertaining? Not really. Worship is not like a concert or sporting event. We must not be spectators. We are to engage in worship to God.
Christianity does not need to be dull or humorless. The Bible is the most amazing book known to man. A disciple of Jesus must be filled with joy. We are all familiar with the admonition, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Jesus wants his disciples to be filled with joy to the overflowing (see John 15:11). But we must not sell Christianity as a spectator event. It must be lived!
Have you ever seen “behind the scenes” of some of these Instagram photos? What appeared to be the perfect setting in some exotic locale, is really a kiddie pool in a cramped backyard.
We want to present the best and hide the worst. Yet the best doesn’t happen without hard labor. The wise man, Solomon, once wrote, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4).
There is value in showing people the labor and sweat. We are real people! Life is messy. I am not perfect, nor are you. At some point people will come into contact with our failings. Presenting something less than the full frame will only make those moments of failure more embarrassing.
If you enjoy sharing photos on Instagram that’s great! Hey, maybe you make a little money along the way. Be a good representative of Jesus as you go.
But let us not give in to the temptation to live or promote the Instagram version of Christianity. That is not what Jesus died for, and it is not what he is coming back to save (Hebrews 9:28). Be real, be you, be like Jesus.