Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Facebooking from Nazareth

“The worst thing you can do is keep it all inside.” 

“There’s too much inside yourself to keep it all cooped up and restrained.”

This is the sort of advice I encounter daily. You see it too, if you’re looking for it.

Bryant McGill claims 60 million readers and “some of the most shared writings in social media history”. If accurate, that’s a lot of people sharing McGill’s thoughts. A Christian friend of mine passed on one of McGill’s more cringe-worthy bromides on Facebook the other day.

This is how it reads:
“It’s not wrong to be upset. It’s not wrong to cry. It’s not wrong to want attention. It’s not even wrong to scream or throw a fit. What is wrong is to keep it all inside. What is wrong is to blame and punish yourself for simply being human. What is wrong is to never be heard and to be alone in your pain. Share it. Let it out.”
Um, okay. Let me “share” something too.

The Spirit of the Age

I heartily disagree with most everything McGill says here, but I like the way it neatly encapsulates the spirit of the age. Essentially, modern technology and prevailing social norms have granted us a license to spill our guts in public whenever we feel the need. Or less charitably, to blurt out every bit of ill-advised, self-indulgent nonsense that wafts through our empty heads.

So what upsets you that you’d like to get off your chest? I’m thinking about the sorts of frustrations, sorrows and pain experienced by Christians in Western societies today, and I’m having a tough time avoiding the very natural comparison that arises with the grievances that the Lord Jesus experienced and might have complained about had he been disposed to.

Simply Being Human

Here’s what “simply being human” meant for him: His life was not merely afflicted with occasional sad events but characterized by sorrow. He was not merely unappreciated but actively rejected by his nation, snubbed by the people of his hometown and misunderstood by his family. He lived a life of poverty and selflessness while others plotted to take it. In the day that Jesus lived, everything he loved was corrupted and disappointing. Finally, he was not only alone in his pain, he volunteered to carry my pain and yours as well. He was backstabbed by one of his friends, deserted by the rest and forsaken by his God.

Then, and only then, did he cry out publicly.

Screaming and Throwing a Fit

Throughout the life of Jesus Christ, there was no Judean equivalent to social media whining. You did not tweet from the temple or Facebook from Nazareth. Can you even visualize the Lord screaming or throwing a fit as McGill advocates?

I have great difficulty with that. I can’t find it in my Bible and my imagination simply won’t go there.

The cleansing of the temple, maybe? No, that doesn’t work: screaming is nowhere to be found. Matthew says he drove the money-changers out. He overturned tables and seats. John says he “poured out” their coins. Then Matthew writes, “He said to them ...”.

Not screamed. Said.

Not screamed. Told.

There’s our example. His spirit was under his control at all times despite tremendous provocation.

Alone in Your Pain

What was the Lord’s motivation? There was surely no self-indulgence or desire to be a spectacle in it. John says, “Zeal for your house will consume me”. Jesus wasn’t looking for attention. He wasn’t “sharing his pain”. In fact, Isaiah says of him:
“He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street.”
If ever anyone was alone in his pain, it was the Lord Jesus. When his voice was heard in public, it was always on behalf of his Father’s business, not his own agenda. He was a public figure who characteristically shunned publicity. He told the cleansed leper, “See that you say nothing to anyone”. He “strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ”. Even when he was transfigured before them, he told his disciples, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead”.

What Is Wrong Is To Never Be Heard

When he sent out his disciples, it was not to make a name for himself or to draw attention to his “brand”. It was the kingdom they proclaimed, not the King. John bluntly asks him, “Are you the one who is to come?” What does the Lord do? He points not to himself but to his actions:
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.”
Here’s the evidence, folks. You draw your own conclusions. But we see not even a hint of self-aggrandizement or attention-seeking in him.

The exception, of course, is the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There was no avoiding that. It was prophesied, and it had to happen. It was one very significant means by which Messiah might be recognized. If he were not recognized, he could not be rejected. If he were not rejected, we’d all still be in our sins today. I, for one, am glad he made an exception in this instance.

The greatest human being in history, charged with the greatest message in history, also carried the greatest burden in history. And he didn’t look for a public stage upon which to share his pain. Instead, he went away alone and spoke to his Father.

Do you ever feel the urge to whinge publicly about your lot in life? I suppose I do too. But we are far better to follow our Saviour’s example than Bryant McGill’s popular but immensely flawed, anti-Christian advice.

We may be only “human”, but even mere humans should be able to keep some things inside.

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