There’s something about the way people naturally form community with one another that isn’t always healthy…something about the way they use social media (not a bad thing in itself) that can have less than positive results. Researchers wanted to gauge the impact of social media on young brains recently, so they took a group of teenagers, stuck them in a brain scanner, and watched what happened as these youths engaged with content on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. What they discovered was a correlation between postings that ranked high in “likes” and the brain activity of the youth involved. People tended to like content that ranked high in likes already. In fact, when the same content was shown but manipulated by researchers, the results were astounding. Everyone generally felt better even about their own photographs and words when these postings appeared with many likes than they did when these same photos and postings appeared with few or no likes. It seems that in the world of social media at least, popularity was an overwhelming factor in creating community.
What does spiritual growth have to do with the brokenness of community based on likes and dislikes?
The Scriptures reveal to us that growing by the grace of God to live more freely and confidently as God’s child isn’t going to look the same for all of us, but each and every one of us is a sinner who by faith is declared holy and precious to God by the free gift of salvation won by Jesus. Now that we’ve seen that we all need spiritual growth the inevitable question is…how does it happen? Is it a matter of going in to a quiet room and praying for 30 minutes at a stretch? Is it the result of a lightning bolt from heaven? Can we assume it’s taken place once we decide to tithe 10% of our income and give to the poor? The bottom line is that you can’t MAKE spiritual growth happen, no matter how hard you try. Only God can grow people spiritually. Usually God does that by sowing the seed of the Good News about Jesus. People who need what Jesus gives, when they hear and receive that surprising message with joy, grow spiritually. But when life is easy there may be a different kind of spiritual growth required. When we grow too comfortable with our lot and our hearts become hardened to those around us, we are like the people of Israel to whom Jeremiah wrote, among whom God’s Word needed to become “like fire” and “like a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces” (23:29). Jesus did come to bring Peace on Earth (Luke 2:14), but His is not the peace that accommodates itself to a world of likes. Our allegiance even to our own blood relations…if such allegiances get in the way of our honoring of our Lord and Savior…must be burned and broken. Thank heaven that Jesus accomplished what we can’t. Thank heaven that the Son who was divided from His Father, who suffered the fire and hammer of heaven for our sins as he died on the cross, has accomplished all that is needed for us to enjoy true peace…to know true community.
The Law of God is never enough. But at times, we need a Word of God that gets our attention. And when it does, the same God is there to rescue. When we are burned and broken, our loving Lord is ready to heal.