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 virtually 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 this hungry monster is never quite satisfied doesn’t seem to trouble us as it ought.
Until, that is, a pastor like Paul reminds me to live quietly and mind my own affairs. Or until 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 in the same way as many pastors I know, including myself. 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, or posting 5 reasons why he is no longer a this or a that, or 7 reasons why everyone else is wrong and he is not.
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. Recovery friends remind 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 them, and Saint Paul’s, advice.
I want to read things which make me a better follower of Jesus, a better friend, a better parent. I want to write things that help people to that end, too. Don’t you? Aren’t you tired of all the writing demonizing everyone else, serving only to hear “amens” from people who already agree with you?
May we all read (and write) less blogs about everyone in Christendom whom we disagree with and more about Jesus and the joy and struggle we’ve discovered in following him. May we gripe less on Facebook about the tribe we once were part of but can no longer stand and instead pray more for those who don’t yet know Jesus. May we find less tweets attacking the way pastors are doing their jobs and more encouraging one another to finish well the race before us.
May the days ahead bring you and me a renewed passion for the place God has placed us, and may we mind our own affairs well.
This post was originally published one year ago. Republished here with some minor editions.