James Kelly, Founder and Director of FaithTech - (faithtech.com: a growing movement of Jesus-followers and spiritual explorers who are interested in all things faith and technology) - wrote this excellent and insightfully relevant blog post recently. James says:
I once had a friend ask me, “Are video games sinful?” In classic fashion, I asked a question back: “what do you think?” His answer surprised me:
“I don’t know. Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe it’s a Hebrews 12 type thing.” A Hebrews 12 type thing? Never heard of that.
Lay Aside Every Weight and Sin
My friend was referring to Hebrews 12:1-3:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The context of Hebrews 12 is important. The “cloud of witnesses” refers to the great men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 that set the example of how one should run with perseverance the race marked out for them. They were defined by their faith. Not for purely avoiding sin, but for living for God and others. For taking risks for the Lord. For running with God.
The power behind Hebrews 12 is that a Christ-follower’s framework for morality is not, “is it sinful?” The proper framework is, “does it help me run with Jesus?”
So now the question is Does technology bring us closer to or further from Jesus?
A Mirror Into Tech Consumption
Have you seen Black Mirror? I felt a particular pull to watch the show because of my role leading FaithTech. It was intriguing — and, at times, terrifying! — to see a dystopian vision of futuristic technology and the way it can shape us. It certainly gave me pause!
But I can tell you this: I did not walk away from Black Mirror more holy. I was not more pure.
But why was I watching?
Was it to pass the time? Was it to numb my pain? Was it to blindly follow culture? If so, did the show help me run with Jesus and make me more holy?
No. But maybe it could have.
I could have chosen to watch Black Mirror grounded in prayer, asking Christ to reveal the cultural idolatry found in this parable. If my purpose in watching was to better equip myself to speak and live wisely in our culture, then Black Mirror would have helped me run with Jesus.
A New Phrase
Now, some of you may be thinking to yourselves, Aren’t we supposed to be “in the world, but not of the world?” Christians like to use this phrase, and it comes from passages like John 8:22-24, 15:19, and 1 John 4:5. However, I think this phrase can be misleading to a lot of Christians - making us believe we are placed in this world, but must retreat away from it.
So let’s consider another passage from John: John 17:14–19. On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Father:
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
What this passage says is that we are to be grounded in the word and set apart in truth, but Jesus says we are to be sent into the world! That is profound. We are not retreating from the world, but going directly into it.
The phrase should not be, “in the world, not of the world?” The phrase should be, “not of the world, but sent into the world.”
With this framework, we can use technology to better send us into the world, as long as we are checking our hearts. As long as we are thinking deeply and critical on why we are engaging with technology.
Reflecting on the Right Questions
Forget “Is technology sinful?”
Is it making us more like Jesus? Is it helping us be a better witnesses of the truth?
Take a look at your life, your technology use, your habits, your use of spare time, your connections with friends and family, your work. What areas can you reexamine with this lens? In which areas can you lay aside weights that are preventing you from running your race?
It is time for a new framework for making decisions. You are not of the world, but sent into the world.