Yesterday I wrote about our tendency to take pictures of ourselves being spiritual as a metaphor for our tendency to follow Jesus for the sake of recognition.
But the more I thought about selfies, the more I realized that there are two aspects of selfies that are difficult for me. The first is the focus on ourselves. This is pretty obvious because the product is a picture of us.
But there is a second aspect of selfies we don’t think about. Not only are they about us. They are by us–and only us. We take our own selfies. This may not seem revolutionary, but only a few short years ago, if we wanted a picture of ourselves somewhere, we had to ask someone to take it. We had to meet people. We had to trust people with our camera. We had to ask for help.
So while this isn’t affecting our devotional time quite like instagramming our time in the Bible, I believe there are some comparisons we can draw from the cultural phenomenon that is selfies.
This is our tendency to want to go at it alone. A kind of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, I-Did-It-My-Way kind of spirituality. We like doing it our way because it makes us feel important. We get to be the hero. We found our way. We discovered the truth all by ourselves without help from anyone.
And while I love people who are motivated to find God and discover the truth, I think this idea that we can pursue Jesus all by ourselves without any input from others in truly dangerous. It comes with a kind of pride that is dangerous to our soul. Paul says this: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). If we are believers in Jesus, we have received much from others.
I certainly believe God visits us and speaks to us. I believe we are all priests to God and can get direct access to Him. But I also believe we are called to receive from, learn from, and be a part of the beautiful body that Christ is forming. This protects us from heresy and it protects us from pride. I’m not sure which is worse.
You would think that selfie churches would be an oxymoron. You would think that the very idea that a group of people gathering together. But how many times have you seen a group of people taking a selfie with a selfie stick?
In much the same way, their are churches where people gather, but they keep others at arms length. They want an us-four-and-no-more church or a church made up of only the purest of the pure. Or they can be a group of people who don’t want to learn from the rest of the body. The body of Christ was designed to learn from each other and that includes congregations being willing to learn from wise believers outside of their body.
There’s another type of selfie church. This is the church that is content with reaching out only to other Christians. They want to grow, they’ll invite Christians to come for their great preaching or their children’s program or their worship team. But it never really is reaching out to those they don’t know. It’s never inviting the stranger or the outsider into “the picture taking process.” Their is a sickness here as well–a pride of a different kind.
Friends, I’ve taken a few selfies. I get it. It can be fun. So I’m not against them. But I’ve used the analogy of selfies to help us understand how relying on ourselves or our group only can hurt our walk with the Lord. We have to invite others in both for our good and for theirs.
So take that selfie. But remember, you need people in your life. I do to. Invite some friends into your life to speak the Gospel to you. And speak the Gospel back. And invite those who you don’t know or don’t know well to join you. It will change how you live.
Have you noticed it? Selfies. Selfies everywhere. Selfies on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve even taken a few. Selfie sticks, which were once thought ridiculous, are now common and acceptable. And it’s affecting everything we do, including how we relate to God.
Whether you instagrammed the last time you went out for coffee to read your Bible, pinned the latest margin that you colored in in your Bible, or hashtagged yourself doing something noble for the world to see, we have a ton of new ways to let people know we’re being spiritual. But our hearts haven’t caught up with our technology.
Jesus said, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in Heaven,” (Matthew 6:2). He goes on to talk about three different areas where this applies: giving, praying, and fasting. I’m sure there are tons of other sacrifices and disciplines He could have mentioned. But the principle is this: If you try and get recognition for what you do, you can have it, but that will be your only reward.
Instead, Jesus offers us rewards in Heaven for the things we do that no one else know about. I’ve gone too far with this. I’ve shut people out of my life in weird ways so they don’t know the good I’ve done. But it’s the heart that Jesus is going after: Are you doing what you’re doing to be admired by others?
If you’ve hung around this long, there’s a secret I want to share: There is an intimacy with God that comes from sacrifice that no one sees and its worth more than all the likes and retweets this world has to offer. Begin a secret life with God. Not a fake life, but do things that only He can see. Start asking Him for things that benefit the world, but only you and He know about. Give to someone who could never repay without being linked to the giving. And all the while, talk to Jesus about it and get His heart.
And if you get His heart, you will never, ever want to trade it for another like again.