The Spirit is Willing, But Let Me Check Instagram First.
When Matt Chandler opened his Instagram, what was he feeling? His 137,000 followers reflect his prominence as an evangelical pastor and president of a large church planting network. But in mid-2022, his Instagram usage became the center of an investigation, and by August his church, based on the findings, suspended Chandler for “unwise” direct messages with a woman who was not his wife.
So, when he opened his DMs, did he hesitate? As his thumb hovered over the “Send” button, did Chandler sense the gravity of his actions? Was he even thinking about that? Do any of us? It seems unlikely. Chandler’s messages were never words spoken aloud. They occurred in a space the size of your hand. Could anything that size turn into a real problem? Nothing about the space itself alerted Chandler to the risks of tapping “Send.” The smartphone has dissociated size from significance.
Explaining himself, Chandler characterized his DMs as “unguarded and unwise,” revealing “something unhealthy in me.” This vagueness may be the language of a church seeking to protect its interests. Or it may be that the distinctions are so fine that not even a pastor like Chandler has the discernment to recognize his mistake. Is there any hope for the rest of us?
The Bible repeatedly warns us to pay careful, close attention to our lives. “Watch your life and your doctrine closely,” Paul tells Timothy. Jesus warns his hearers that we will one day answer for every careless word, every thoughtless tweet. And like a lighter struck in a room doused with gasoline, James reminds us that the tongue is itself a flame that could devour our lives. In the age of social media, what we say can come back to haunt us even years later. And in the age of the smartphone, even the smallest gestures can cut in on Christians who were running a good race. So what can we do?
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