Messenger: The Biblical Facebook Tool

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but Jesus didn’t give us a lot of rules to live by. His teachings were usually centered on attitudes, concepts of living, and compassion for those around us. That’s probably why Christians differ on so many peripheral topics. There’s no set rule for them.

There are some exceptions to that, however. In Matthew 18, there’s a powerful passage where Jesus lays down the law (so to speak). He tells his listeners to go in private if you have a problem with someone. It’s really good advice and would also pass for common sense—even if it wasn’t Biblical.

“Air your grievances…”

If someone does something that offends you, go to him in person, let him know what you’re thinking, and air your grievances against him. Jesus goes on to say, if that doesn’t work, bring one or two other folks with you the next time in order to convince the offender of the error of his ways. If that doesn’t bear fruit, widen the circle of witnesses. As the circle continues to broaden, eventually everyone will be in the know and will be able to minister to the offending brother.

This seems to be good, sound, obvious advice. Unfortunately, it can also be time consuming and a lot of trouble. I’m pretty sure Jesus knew that when he laid it out for us. If you think about it, going that route can save a lot of problems—like mistakenly accusing someone or crudely returning one offense for another.

Another problem with this process is forgiveness and repentance. If the offending brother immediately recognizes the error of his ways, asks for forgiveness, and repents, we have nothing left to hang over his head. If we forgive him, we necessarily forfeit our holier-than-thou attitude (if we had one). What’s the fun in that?

21st Century FB Christians

I dare say, most Christians know that passage (or at least understand the concept). Still, many Christians forego this teaching and jump immediately to the last step (which is basically to air these things in public). This is especially true of we twenty-first century, Facebook Christians. It’s easy to post something condemning your offending brother. Who needs those first few steps? The answer is simply, “We do.”

The strange part about this is that it’s so easy to follow Jesus’ rule here. Facebook gives us this awesome tool named Messenger. On Messenger, we can immediately speak directly to people in private. The implications for someone attempting to live a life of Christian discipleship are obvious. It’s one of the easiest avenues for living out Matthew 18.

If a brother offends you, Message him in private. We do it in all sorts of other circumstances. Why wouldn’t we do it in these instances? My guess is, for the most part, it would only take one quick message to get your point across. Your brother would correct his error (or sin, or offense), and we could all go home.

Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg (or whoever invented Messenger).

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]

Generation Z

The sociologists, politicians, and many educators are really good at dividing us up into various groupings. According to them, I’m a Baby Boomer. My kids are Gen X-ers and Millennials, and my grandbabies are labeled Generation Z (or iGen, or Centennials). My parents were Traditionalists, otherwise known as the Silent Generation.

All these subdivisions are interesting, but offensive in many ways. The groupings are distasteful because we all get stuffed into one category or another and explained away. We are virtually told what we believe, why we believe it, and what our courses of action will be. I’m going to do a sit-in protest against these alignments (which, of course, is coincidental with my generation).

We’ve Taken it to an Extreme

A cursory knowledge of these things is all well and good. We should have a general understanding of what makes us tick. The problem that seems to have developed is we’ve taken this to an extreme. We know the studies, the assigned characteristics, and the expected actions and reactions of each generation. We know them so well, we’ve begun to pigeonhole people before they’ve had a chance to become who they really are (or are going to be). We’ve already written them off as a necessary product of their respective times. So much for diversity…

When I first landed in pastoral ministry, it was a big deal to study personality types. For a while, everyone was walking around talking about sanguine or phlegmatic types, introverts and extroverts, type-A’s and type-D’s. We were all giving tests to see if we were putting the right people in the best positions for their types. We were attempting to get a good personality mix on the church board.

I discovered that I am type A+. Oh, wait—that’s my blood type. But, I suppose, (since the church often expects blood) we should know that as well. In short, we got carried away. As wise people often say, “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” We finally stopped doing that, but not before we ruffled more than a few feathers.

We Are Individuals

We should have learned from that But alas, now we’re doing the same thing with generational types. Though people are influenced by their society, culture, and environment, they are not merely the sum and total of those things. People are people. They are individuals. Wrapping them up in a nice little bow for presentation to the work force, the university, or the church just doesn’t cut it.

We are selling each other short with these overdone brandings. I challenge you, as I’d challenge anyone, to break free of the labels that bind. You are God’s creation. God does not make any two things alike. Even “identical” twins are not identical. Two peas in a pod may resemble each other, but they are not the same.

I refuse to be defined by my generation. I fight against the notion that I’m bound by the year in which I was born. I am a unique child of God. So are you.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]