One of the seemingly constant battles within Christian circles is interaction with non-Christians. How much should we do? How far should we go? How much should we compromise (if indeed we should call it that)? Inevitably this debate swiftly took on digital communication and social media. How much should we, as Christians, be involved in the World Wide Web and social media and what should that involvement look like? It’s a proverbial elephant in the room.
Recently I heard of a Christian version Facebook. Yes, it exists and no, I’m not going to give you a link to it. On the surface we might be tempted to think making a Christian version of something is a good thing. The claim on this particular site that “in no time at all, you can connect with all of your Christian friends” is a red flag to me. What of my atheist or agnostic friends? What of my interested-but-not-self-identifying-as-a-Christian-yet friends. I agree that services like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ could each be improved in lots of ways but we need to beware isolationism. I’m not convinced the best way to deal with the elephant in the room is to kill it and build an ivory tower out of it.
The book of Ezra describes the Israelites returning to their homeland, except it doesn’t resemble what they left any more. It’s a harsh, different and dangerous environment for them and yet they feel the call of God to restore the Temple in Jerusalem. Early in this work some of the Gentiles who live in the surrounding area approached the Israelites with an offer.
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.” Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. Ezra 4:1-4 NIV
Note how those offering help are referred to as “enemies”, despite their admission of worshipping God and offer of help. Note how their offer assistance is rejected “We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel”. Note how the they say “your God” and the Israelites say “our God”. Note the result of the snub. How different could this part of Israel’s history have been if they had accepted the offer? How different could our experience of the web and social media be if we engaged rather than rejected those who are not like us?