Would Jesus Use Facebook?

I’ve recently been pondering a question posed by a colleague: Would Jesus Use Facebook? It comes from an opinion column that cited another colleague as suggesting that if Jesus were to return today, “he’d start his ministry on Facebook.” *see footnote*

One of my inner voices (a cynical, justice-oriented prophet) immediately chimed up in my mind to say “absolutely not! The average Facebook user is affluent, middle-class, computer-savvy, suburban! Jesus wouldn’t be hanging in suburbia kicking back on a PC or iPhone; he would be out with the folks at Justa Center (link), hanging with the homeless and hurting. Jesus didn’t hang with the prominent, he hung with the marginalized.”

The thing is, Jesus did both! Though we regularly (and rightly so) picture Jesus hanging out with the “least, last, and lost,” there are also multiple accounts of Jesus visiting with the wealthy and powerful: nameless Pharisees (Lk 7) and Nicodemus (Jn 3), Zaccheus (Lk 19), tax collectors (Lk 5), even successful small-businessmen (Lk 5)! The great thing about Jesus is that he meets people where they are, and then either encourages or challenges them; his goal in all cases being that they might be freed from whatever limits them from experiencing the fullness of life.

There is a repeated phrase in the gospel of Matthew that makes me think Jesus would use Facebook. Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 both share (I’m paraphrasing) that “Jesus went through the area, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”

Jesus went to where people were, and then engaged in the principal actions of his ministry: proclamation (helping people to know), teaching (helping people to grow), and healing (helping people to be whole). Twice in Luke he sends the disciples out to do the same, to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick (Luke 9:2 and 10:9).

I don’t know that I would say Jesus would start his ministry on Facebook.  I imagine Jesus serving coffee at Justa, reading to kids at UMOM, and dancing at Lodestar; Jesus standing in solidarity with those experiencing, or fearful of, oppression; Jesus building homes with Habitat (he was a carpenter, after all!).

But I do imagine that Jesus would also make use of Facebook, to reach out to those who gather there… to then encourage them to move somewhere new with him.

There is actually an account, in Scripture!, from one of our earliest theologians that I think captures the essence of using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media as a means to reach people with the gospel (message) of Jesus Christ. Writing to the Christians in Corinth, the Apostle Paul shared that:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:20-23, NIV)

(A great example of Paul’s methodology of using whatever means available to reach people with the gospel is recounted in Acts 17, when he was in Athens.)

Paul utilized whatever means was necessary to share the good news of life in Jesus Christ with others. He wasn’t seeking to emulate or become like others, but to meet them where they were to share the riches of life in Christ. Eugene Peterson, in re-translating this passage for The Message, put it this way:

19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

So, would Jesus use Facebook? I think that he just might, and that we would see in his “friend requests” and “status updates” a repeated invitation to step into the world with him, an invitation to join him in living a life that truly makes a difference in the world.

What do you think?

*footnote*
The question rises out of an opinion column written by friend and colleague Stephen Hustedt, our conference director of communications. His article, “What It Now Means to be Connectional” won a best of division award from United Methodist Communications, and can be found in a recent issue of our conference magazine, Transformation Magazine, available online here.
Stephen ended his column by writing:
“Yes, we can use technology as a tool to keep ourselves connected, but it is even more important that we use it as a tool to reach out to all those people who are crying out into the night. We must follow our charge as Christians and take our story to where the people are… There can be unpleasant things on the Internet. Even sites like YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook that don’t let in the worst can be frightening, but that is why we must be there with the light that our story brings. The time for us to go forth is now! I’m a believer. What do you think? If Jesus came back today, would he start his ministry on Facebook?”
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