aspire to live quietly, and mind your own affairs (1 Thess. 4:11)
In the margins of my bible, beside this pastoral advice, I have written: “Facebook makes this command impossible.”
Isn’t that the truth? The internet, particularly social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogging, has forced the affairs of the entire world onto our screens. The temptation to not get involved is too great to bear, or so it seems, and besides, minding the affairs of others is fun. It feeds something within us that seems very hungry. That it is never quite satisfied doesn’t trouble us as it ought.
Until, that is, a pastor like Paul reminds me to live quietly and mind my own affairs. Until, that is, I overhear Jesus telling one of his own disciples that the life span of someone else is none of his business. You, Jesus says, keep your eyes on me (John 21:22).
I am reading some of Eugene Peterson’s work these days and I am confronted over and over again by how oriented his focus was to place. Peterson’s memoir describes a pastor driven to be spent within a small radius of geography, dedicated to praying for and living with the handful of people who make up his congregation – his place on this earth to serve. Pastor Peterson is minding his own affairs, and I’m certain the people of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church are the better for his presence.
As I was thinking about pastors like Peterson – pastors whom I admire a great deal and feel they have done a great deal of good for the kingdom of God – it occurred to me that none of them have an online presence like myself, or many pastors I know. I’ve never seen, nor can I imagine, the likes of Pastor Peterson arguing on Facebook about what some pastor in Seattle said last week. I can’t see or imagine him pontificating about the fate of reality television stars, or arguing online about whether gay couples should marry.
I can imagine, however, Pastor Peterson having those discussions in his office with a troubled member of his local parish. I can imagine him talking these things out over coffee with a recent visitor to his church. I can see him at a round table with young and old alike, answering questions and being deeply concerned about what these people – these flesh and blood people he is charged to care for – think.
It occurs to me that the people I admire the most are too busy minding their own affairs, living quietly in the place God placed them, and if I aspire to be like them, perhaps I should model their behavior, on and offline.
Admittedly, part of me wants to argue that John Wesley famously said “The whole world is my parish.” He saw it as his duty to proclaim the good tidings of salvation in whatever place his horse or feet carried him. And didn’t Paul also ask for prayer that he would be given the courage to “speak boldly” (Eph. 6:20)? I don’t know how Paul or Wesley would make use of Facebook, but I imagine if they used it at all they would remember to always “speak the truth in love,” that their conversations would “always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). I’m sure that wisdom would dictate their course of action, that their words would be for the purpose of glorifying God and not self, and the fruit of their efforts would be obvious to all.
Paul’s pastoral advice to live quietly and mind my own affairs is a helpful antidote to the pride so easily lurking in my heart which whispers that the church will crumble if I do not engage in this conversation among relative strangers, and I’m all too eager at times to oblige. My wife has been a helpful antidote as well, reminding me that the world does not need to know every thought that comes through my head. We are all the better off when I heed her, and Paul’s, advice.
For more on this topic, see: Pastors: Guard your Online Pulpit