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1247. How Can I Love My Neighbor Through Social Media, Pt. 1

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
May 10, 2022 7:00 pm

1247. How Can I Love My Neighbor Through Social Media, Pt. 1

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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May 10, 2022 7:00 pm

Dr. Mark Ward Jr. continues a series entitled “Technology and Entertainment” with the first part of a message titled “How Can I Love My Neighbor Through Social Media” from Matthew 22:34-40.

The post 1247. How Can I Love My Neighbor Through Social Media, Pt. 1 appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform. Our program features sermons from a message preached by Dr. Mark Ward Jr. Dr. Steve Pettit will introduce him. It is our delight to have in chapel today and tomorrow Dr. Mark Ward. Mark graduated from Bob Jones University with his undergraduate degree in 2001. He went on to get his master's and his Ph.D. in New Testament interpretation. For many years he worked in the Bob Jones University Press. He also contributed to a number of books, one of them being the Biblical World View Textbook.

He went to work out in the state of Washington and he works for what is known as Faith Life. If you have the Logos Bible Study Program, that all comes out of Faith Life. And today he is the editor of the Bible Study Magazine. Faith Life's mission is to use technology to equip the church to grow and lie to the Bible. It's one of the things we mentioned yesterday about seeking first God's kingdom and his righteousness. That's the way that we can use technology for God's glory. He is a member of Cornerstone Baptist Church where he serves as an assistant pastor, Sunday school teacher, music director and occasional pulpit supply.

And so would you please give Dr. Mark Ward a warm welcome as he comes to speak this morning. Please turn right to Matthew 22-34. And some of the most familiar and important words of the New Testament. Matthew chapter 22. It's a little hard to find in this 1611 King James, but in honor of my documentary tonight, that's what I'll be reading from. Matthew 22-34.

But when the Pharisees had heard that he, that is Jesus, had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. I do make it my aim to love my neighbor, but sometimes they make it so hard. The most troubling and pressing question of the covid crisis for me as a Christian has been this.

Why is it that so many Christians I do love, people who share my doctrinal commitments and my love of Christ and His word, why is it that they trust voices I distrust on these political matters? And vice versa. When the big covid wave hit us, why did we react so differently to it? I felt like Ray and Kylo Ren, who moments ago were standing facing each other, only to discover that there was a hidden crack between them that has now widened into a chasm.

Do you remember that scene? It's already disturbing to be divided from fellow believers whom I love or it ought to be, but it's even worse to feel like you don't know why you're divided. I'm going to do my best.

Don't be nervous. Not to reveal what side I'm on on that chasm in the major political disputes of the day that are dividing American Christians, masks, vaccines, church closures, worship restrictions. I think if I did, I would split this room right down the middle. The people on the left of this center aisle, you are leftists, liberals. I can just tell by looking at you. You read the New York Times, you listen to NPR, and you only listen on the left speakers in your car.

You also practice sneering in the mirror every Tuesday morning. You are never Trumpers who couldn't decide whether to dress as David French or Ross Douthat at Halloween. For the eighth graders here, those are prominent never Trumpers.

You got an extra COVID vaccination in your other arm just because the moral superiority you enjoyed after the first dose felt so good. You don't love your neighbors unless they're to your left. Don't deny it. And you people on the right. You are right-wing Fox News fanatics. I can just tell by looking at you. You do your hair like Tucker Carlson. And you, I can tell, you are planning to have three girls and name them all after Donald Trump's wives.

I can just tell you cannot wait to say, Ivana, Marla, Melania, time for dinner. You think masks have all been infected with COVID by the World Health Organization, which, when written out in Chinese characters, spells Wu Han. You think vaccines and lockdowns were invented by communists and by King George III, which is to bring America back under the tyrannical thumb of Great Britain so he can tax our tea again.

You don't love your neighbors unless they're to your right. Don't deny it. Okay, you can deny it. I'm using hyperbole, just to be clear, high schoolers. Not unlike Jesus did a few times, using some humor, too.

Remember the speck and the beam? I'm trying to bring up issues that have divided American Christians while avoiding saying what I actually think. Remember, you still don't know which side of the aisle I'm on or if I'm right in the center. But you do know that in the words of a pastor friend who wrote a book about social media recently, he said, I have never witnessed a time when professing Christians have been at such odds with one another. Evangelical writer Peter Wehner just last week wrote a long article in The Atlantic titled, The Evangelical Church is Breaking Apart. Now, I'm neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I do work for a for-profit business. And I think he's right.

We have never needed to love our neighbors more than we do right now. During this series refresh, kind of a back to basics course on various topics, Dr. Pettit actually asked me to talk about technology and social media. And I'll bet you anything you're expecting a critique or at least a lament.

But you're not going to get either one. I actually asked my good friend Kerry McGonigal to pull some of his undergrad classes and I took tons of notes on what you said. Sure seems to me that at least Mr. McGonigal students already know what the downsides of social media are. The hyper partisanship, the echo chambers, the time wasting, the flaming, the mobbing, the canceling, the pornography, the cat videos. They named all the problems plus some I didn't think of. I was truly impressed.

I'm honest. And if you think you need more help on the dangers of social media, make sure you listen to Dr. Pettit's message from yesterday. And go and read an excellent book that I asked them to get copies of at the bookstore, Andy Crouch's The TechWise Family.

Highly, highly recommended. So without minimizing or denying any of these dangers, and I see them every day, I want to show in these two days how we can use social media technologies positively, constructively, to love our neighbors as ourselves the way Jesus commanded. I have done a ton of writing for two large biblical worldview textbooks put out by BJU Press. I believe strongly that everything in God's good creation is good before it's bad. That Satan cannot create anything but can only bend and twist the good things God has already made out of their intended shape. I believe that technology is just a word we use for the tools for dominion over God's good creation that were invented after we were born. These tools, or at least the potential for them, were placed in creation by God. So they are, along with the rest of creation, C, F, and R. Created, fallen, and redeemable.

Like all of God's good creation, social media technologies are fundamentally good. But, like all creation, they are twisted by the fall. And, like all creation, they can and will be brought under the Lordship of Christ. Every knee will bow.

Even Mark Zuckerberg's. What do social media technologies look like when they are unbent? When they are placed under Christ's feet at His disposal? When they are tools for me to love my God and to love my neighbor? I want to spend these two days applying Jesus' love commands by answering just one narrow question. How can I love my neighbor as myself through social media technologies? I want to push hard on these words, love your neighbor as yourself, to help us work and pray to make this impossible, second greatest commandment, real, today on your phone and mine.

That's what we're going to do. I'm going to attempt to paint a picture of what it could look like if Christians love their neighbors as themselves through whatever social media technologies they use. And I want to offer some counsel on how to get there. How can you love your neighbor as yourself in a place full of haters? First, always use the hermeneutic of love.

Social media technologies bring out disagreement. You are going to face it when you do. Always interpret others' words charitably. According to the law of love that I read to you from Matthew 22, and the light of your Christian love will be evident in an often dark place.

You will stand out. It's really significant that Jesus included the two little words. Look at them in verse 39. The second great command is likened to the first. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. In other words, love your neighbor to the degree that you already presumably love yourself. Now, I've spent a lot of time actually among the most careful students of the book of Matthew from past and present, and students of the theology of love.

That's what I wrote my dissertation on. And they were agreed on this interpretation that I just gave you. Some have attempted to make Jesus be saying, we should love others more than ourselves, but these attempts have failed. He really specifically pegged love for others to the standard of the self-regard that everybody already has. I don't dismiss the very real pain of many suffering people, but still I have to say that even those who commit suicide are showing supreme self-regard.

The ending of their pain is more important to them than the pain they'll cause for their loved ones. Everybody loves himself or herself. The Bible assumes it. Jesus assumes it here.

There is a degree to which this is good. We have worth that God placed in us as image bearers, and we shouldn't deny or diminish that worth. Even the God in whose image we are made loves his own pleasure. He loves certain things and hates certain other things, as the Bible reveals.

Those desires are good. I said I wrote my dissertation on love, and I drew really heavily from Jonathan Edwards, one of our evangelical heroes, in his famous series of sermons, Charity and Its Fruits, on 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. He said that love for others means wrapping up my neighbor's good in my good.

I also drew from C.S. Lewis, whose essay The Weight of Glory has had a huge impact on me. I beg you to read that essay.

It's free online. He pointed out that the virtue of love is not the same as unselfishness, as if the point of love is going without good things ourselves rather than securing them for others. No, the point of love for neighbor is finding my joy in their joy. Jesus unites your and my natural love for ourselves as individuals with our love for our neighbors. So note that Jesus' command—I'm sorry, primary Sunday school teachers—does not go, Jesus, others, you, and that spells joy. It actually goes, God first, and your neighbors and you tied for second place. I've always felt, though, that this second great commandment is an incredibly high bar.

Have you thought about this? Love my neighbor as much as I love myself? I do, and I'm not kidding here, I sometimes feel I love my wife as much as I love myself. When she smiles just so, I feel that. I love her as I vowed to do on our wedding day with the true love of delight. But so frequently my love isn't yours, it's stuck inside myself.

It's stuck on myself. My weak flesh does not permit my love to escape this little selfishness force field that was bequeathed to me and to you by Adam and Eve at the fall. So during times of pitched disagreement among Christians over the politics of COVID, I've had to work and pray hard to love those that I disagreed with in the Christian community. I've had to use the hermeneutic of love on their statements because that's what I hoped they would do for me.

And I saw the Lord help me do this. I can't go into detail because the issues are still very much active and very personal, but I can say, the Lord, I saw him place healthy pressure on me through my circumstances to avoid the partisan tribalizing I was so tempted to give in to. To love my Christian neighbors as myself across the vaccine aisle and across the masking aisle meant ascribing to them the best motives I honestly could, even when I felt they were horribly wrong. I still had hard discussions with people. I had conflict. For church leadership like me, the political issues surrounding masks in the state of Washington could not be avoided or papered over.

Everybody knew what you were doing, whether you were wearing one or not. But the hermeneutic of love made those arguments productive rather than explosive. Praise God, those I disagreed with in my circumstances also practiced the hermeneutic of love on my statements.

One of my favorite Brits, Alistair Roberts, whose writings I recommend, said recently that the extreme partisanship of the U.S. context makes it almost impossible to have a rational conversation over COVID. But I saw love, the hermeneutic of love, make it possible. Now, a second way to love your neighbor as yourself through social media. Mind your own affairs. Just listen to 1 Thessalonians 4.

I'll actually read it in a minute. I'm going to read a verse there. Before I get there, I want to set it up a little bit by talking more about this love command. It's instructive that Jesus does not say, Love everyone as you love yourself. He says right here, verse 39, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. He doesn't say love everyone as if people I'll never meet in some obscure corner of Tierra, Del Fuego, or Djibouti, which is my favorite country to say, need to be just as much on my mind as my own kids.

How could that be? Only God's love has that kind of powerful reach. No, Jesus says love your neighbor.

I've spent some time among careful students of the Gospels and I've pondered this myself for years on end. What I've come to is that my neighbor is whomever God brings across my path. And that includes some persons the inscrutable Facebook algorithms have delivered to my social media feed. There is a danger here, namely that I can so ensconce myself in my safe suburban enclave or my safe online echo chamber that I never run across the man who's robbed, beaten, and left for dead at the side of the road. Don't do that.

No ensconcing allowed. Love for neighbors should drive you outward to follow the Great Commission and therefore to meet human needs of neighbors you wouldn't have met otherwise. But you still won't meet everyone. You still end up being called to ignore most of the rest of the people on the planet and love certain people you know, like your roommates. And I say, love that neighbor, the one God has given you. Or I could put it, as Paul did in one of his letters to the Thessalonians, the verse I said I'd read to you, 1 Thessalonians 4-11.

This is what he said. Study to be quiet and to do your own business and to work with your own hands as we commanded you. I'll give you a little preview of what the documentary is about. That phrase, study to be quiet, here in the King James Version, actually doesn't mean hit the books, although I really wish sometimes that my children would take a class on being quiet. The King James translators, they used an older Elizabethan sense of that word study, the one that we don't use anymore.

I call this a false friend in the King James Version, a word that you don't know you don't know, and you'll hear a lot more about that if you come to hear my documentary tonight. What this word study meant in 1611 in a context like this one is aspire to, make it your aim or ambition. So, seek to, make it your aim or ambition to, be quiet and do your own business. In other words, mind your own affairs. In love, give attention to things the Lord has actually put on your plate, the neighbors He's actually given to you. Now, I think some people, I can think of some BJA graduates, men and women, by virtue of their gifts and training and interest, I think they have a calling to be salt and light for Christ to strangers on social media.

Speaking to a wider audience is their business. But verses like this one I read to you make me focus a lot of my social media use on keeping up relationships with my family and my friends and my church, the most important neighbors God has given me. I think verses like this in 1 Thessalonians also mean it has to be okay that some Christians choose to stay off social media altogether. But if you stay on, mind your own affairs. As the wise and charitable Kevin DeYoung said on Twitter not long ago, in our Internet age, it's easy to be overwhelmed with burdens that only God is meant to carry. I frequently tell my wife that I just don't want to know the bad news that she stumbled across on her social media feed.

I can't do anything about it. I want to focus my love on my neighbor, on those issues I actually have done the work to earn a good opinion on. If it's a folly and a shame to a person, as Proverbs says, to answer a matter before he hears it, then positively speaking, if I really believe I can love my neighbor by speaking to a controversial matter publicly on social media, I better do some big-time hearing first, do some reading, come to know really for sure what I'm talking about.

A Christian college is a fantastic place to lay a foundation for that kind of thing, to start to gain that kind of knowledge that will help you love your neighbor. And if you want to speak out for Christ on abortion, say, go read Scott Klusendorf and master his approach. And when you've got the maturity, go read people on the other side.

Read philosopher Ronald Dworkin or the Guttmacher Institute website. Hear what abortion defenders are actually saying. If you believe you're called to address publicly some controversial issue, and we certainly need Christians who do that, then make it your own affair. Even as a non-professional, self-consciously make it your business, driven by love, to do enough homework to make you responsible on that topic. Now, a third way to love your neighbor as yourself on social media. Pick the best representatives of the other side in any debate.

Represent your opponents at their best. It is extremely common in public debate today for people to engage in what's called nutpicking. They take the most extreme QAnon conspiracy theorist and say that he is the true representative of the Republican Party. They take the most extreme leftist socialist commie vegan abortion doctor and talk as if the whole Democratic Party is secretly all of those things. As if there are no moderates on the other side of the aisle from me. Nutpicking is not love. And no matter what political party you tend to favor, remember that Jesus did not just say love your neighbors.

He said love your enemies. If you are a conservative, you right-wingers, and you don't have a favorite liberal, anyone across the political aisle for whom you have some genuine admiration, talk to me and I can suggest a few names. I am a social and a fiscal conservative. I'm a very theologically conservative Christian.

Because of my Bible, and I explain this in the B.J.U. Press worldview textbooks, I believe that my job is to invest in the traditions and institutions that I'm handed, working humbly for reform where necessary because the fall has touched every institution, including this one. Despite our many sins, there are countless good things in our nation's political history and in the history of the West more generally. And they're worth conserving. That's why I'm a conservative.

It was B.J.U. 's commitment to conserving a Christian kind of excellence in the Western classical tradition of art, music, and theater, et cetera, that really attracted me to the school as a teenager. And I hope a ton of our high school guests will come to Bob Jones University to be conservatives of that very valuable tradition.

So I am speaking mainly to college students and what I'm about to say. High school students may not be ready for this, but I do think you should have a favorite liberal. And I'm going to name a name. Nick Kristof, a legendary journalist at the New York Times. Not sure if you've ever heard of him. I think Nick Kristof is dead wrong on tons of stuff, not least, and most importantly, Christ's resurrection, which he wrote a whole article or two saying he doesn't believe in. But I have more than a grudging respect for Nick Kristof. And one of the big reasons I do is that I've seen him consistently over almost 20 years show that same respect to conservative Christians like me. I've also seen Nick Kristof really put his life on the line for hurting people, like in Darfur and Cambodia and Tiananmen Square, and now in his home state of Oregon where he's running for governor.

He just left the Times after 37 years. Listen, folks, the Bible does not require me to believe that Nick Kristof is doing good only for selfish reasons or that his support for abortion, which is indeed a terribly heinous sin, somehow invalidates every other good. Nick Kristof, this unbeliever, this liberal, has some virtues and strengths that I lack, even if I disagree with his politics and frankly would not vote for him if I lived in Oregon precisely because of his abortion stance. The Bible does not teach that all unbelievers are demons, holy and completely evil. It tells me that God's good image resides even in unbelievers, that his common grace gives them good gifts, and that the effects of the fall affect even my own party or tribe and me personally. It's a kind of Christian heresy to act as if your political party is perfectly good and the other one is perfectly demonic. And I fear that a lot of today's news makes a ton of money off of that very heresy.

Christians ought to be the ones who are able to cut through our country's many polarizations better than anyone else because we have a standard in God's Word to which we can hold up all political ideas and parties, and we have a command, love your neighbor as yourself. Now, we have problems in this country, but I dare say, and I triple dog dare say, that our problems are not as bad as Soviet Russia in the 1960s and 70s. And yet, Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn helped take down one of the most violent institutions in the world, the Soviet Gulag prison system, without firing a shot by representing it at its best. His brilliant move in a really great little book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, was to depict the very best day in Ivan's life as a prisoner in the Gulag. Solzhenitsyn could easily have painted a lurid picture of Ivan's worst day because he had been in the Gulag. He could even have picked an average day, which was terrible enough, but he would have left himself open to the charge of exaggeration. But by depicting the most successful day during Ivan's unjust internment, the day when his meaningless work was actually rewarding and he got a tiny bit of extra food, Solzhenitsyn silenced critics, snuck damning truths past the Soviet premiere, and delivered an incredibly powerful rhetorical blow that reverberates to this day.

The book is a glory. Solzhenitsyn could do this because he had hold of a Christian truth, which he put like this in his book, The Gulag Archipelago. It was only when I lay there on the rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually, it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not between states, nor between social classes, nor between political parties, but right through every human heart.

Bible Christians like us should reflect this simple, deeply biblical truth in everything we say online. I am pulling punches all the time. I know I could land that would make my fans cheer because I know it would persuade people on the other side of the debate to distrust me. I want to be more than fair. I want to be David, before he was king, refusing to kill Saul out of a sense of honor toward the Lord's anointed, even though Saul was on a mission to kill David. I want to be King Peter and Narnia, who didn't kill King Miraz when he stumbled in their bout to the death, even though he could have, but he gallantly stood back and let him get up. I want to be Reepacheep the Mouse and Narnia, who didn't hold a grudge against Eustace.

Do you remember this? Despite Eustace's really embarrassing abuse, but after Eustace's repentance was quick to become his dearest friend, if our political, uneven, our theological ends justify our immoral means, there is no God! God called the Israelites in specific circumstances, after the iniquity of the Amorites was full, to be his judicial agents to go kill Canaanites. But that's not our New Testament calling. In all debates, I'm trying not just to win the debate, but to win my opponents. This demands that, in love, I give them a sense that I play fair, and that means interacting with the best representatives of their view. The Bible tells pastors to be examples. So I just want to say this to you.

You don't know what this looks like? Watch me. Come see my documentary. I want to treat my opponents in a very touchy debate over the King James Version, with as much grace and love as possible. Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said they will know you by your love for one another. You've been listening to a message preached by Dr. Mark Ward, Jr., who works for Faith Life, makers of Logos Bible Software. Join us again tomorrow as we conclude this series, Technology and Entertainment, on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-20 17:38:43 / 2023-04-20 17:49:49 / 11

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