The Scriptures I Use When I Teach on Social Media: The Joy of Meeting Face-to-Face
This is the third piece in our series, “The Scriptures I Use When I Teach On _____.” Our hope is to offer our readers some of the go-to Scriptures we use for teaching on certain topics that aren’t addressed directly by the Bible. The second in our series can be found here.
Every year, Instagram users upload 21.9 billion photos to the visual social network. According to a study done by the photo company Photoworld, it would take many lifetimes just to double-tap every photo. Kim Kardashian (the reigning queen of Instagram’s most-liked photo) would have to spend 286 million years just to post that many selfies. As the study concluded, it was found that if you printed out each and every Instagram photo uploaded this year and stacked them up, they would climb thousands of miles into the sky. For example, even if you only printed the number of photos that were uploaded within the last 37 minutes, your stack would easily zip past the Empire State building.
Our world is a virtual world. And this virtual world is becoming a reality. In John Suler’s article, “The Two Paths of Virtual Reality,” he writes, “Virtual reality is a reality that has the effect of actual reality but not its authentic form. It’s a kind of simulation or substitute, but one with potency and validity. It gets close to the real thing. In its effect on people, it’s practically the real thing.” Emotional attachments and relational connections can be established even when mediated by text message.
In the face of cyber relationships, we need Biblical help! How do we make sense of the new virtual reality?
I think the answer can be found in 2 John 12 where the apostle John wrote, “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.”
What is Preferable?
First, follow the train of thought. The apostle John has much to write, but would rather have face-to-face interaction. In other words, John finds face-to-face interaction more preferable.
Follow the next thought; it is more preferable than what? Paper and ink. John prefers to talk in real space and time, and this interaction is more to be desired than communicating and relating through paper and ink.
Now pay close attention to the next important phrase, “so that our joy may be complete.” John finds talking face-to-face more preferable than using paper and ink because his joy will be complete when they meet face-to-face. The purpose of John coming to them is for their joy and his joy. This implies that joy already exists in the present relationship, but is not complete. At the very least, we must see that there is a close relationship between face-to-face interaction and completed joy.
The Face of God
If you follow the theme of seeing the “face of God” throughout scripture, it is easy to understand the type of joy that John is talking about. This is the same type of joy that Zacchaeus has in Luke 19. In Luke 19, Zacchaeus is famous for running along the street and climbing a sycamore tree just so that he could see Jesus face-to-face. His joy and excitement is wrapped up in seeing Jesus. Even though Zacchaeus was small in stature, nothing was going to stop him from seeing Jesus. What is rather interesting is Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus. Jesus takes notice of him in the midst of an extremely large crowd, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down” (Luke 19:6). Jesus applauds Zacchaeus who wished to see His face. Personal interaction between the savior and his people brings ultimate delight to those who seek His face.
What you may find even more interesting is the difference between Exodus 33:17-23 and Revelation 22:3-5. In the one passage, Moses asks God to show him His glory. God’s response is, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” In the Old Testament, God makes it abundantly clear that a human being would die if they looked upon the face of the Lord. However, by the time we reach Revelation 22:3-5 we are told, “they (God’s children) will see His face.” Here in the New Testament after the return of Christ, all of God’s beloved bride will see the face of God.
What’s the difference? Why is there such a big shift from Exodus to Revelation?
The answer is rather simple. Perhaps the largest objection to the passage in 2 John is that it seems unclear what kind of joy John is talking about. For example, I have argued before that face-to-face relationships are better and more preferable because countenance is visible, physical affection is available, there is better clarity, and it’s the best environment to confront sin. However true, this doesn’t seem to persuade anyone, especially youth. We still love cyberspace and I need a more convincing reason than just ‘better’ relationships!
I need an all-satisfying joy in order to prefer personal interaction over cyber relationships. The reason that the bride of Christ can see the face of God and Moses could not, is because of Jesus. The doctrine of the incarnation makes it possible to see the face of God and not die. Jesus gave up His place in the throne room in order that He may have authentic, personal, face-to-face interaction with His people. This is truly our Immanuel, our God with us. He became like us in every way so that He might atone for those He has chosen and loved. It is no wonder that the Roman Centurion finally believed that Jesus was the son of God at the crucifixion; he had seen His face.
Ultimate joy is found in face-to-face interaction, not because there are better benefits than social media and cyber relationships, but because this is how God has chosen to save His people. God has taken a people who could not see His face and given us the God/man who we could see and experience in the flesh. Now, in ultimate consummation, we can and will behold the glory and face of God.
Join us for Rooted 2015, an intimate youth ministry conference, where we will explore how the good news of God coming to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ offers student ministers and teenagers, hope, healing and connectedness.