The world has changed, hasn’t it? The world we live in today is not the world as it was a few years ago. In just the past few decades we have entered into a digital world, and you and I are the ones who are learning how to live in it, and how to live in it with virtue. We are the trailblazers here, learning how to use these incredible, world-changing technologies to carry out the commission God has given us. These new technologies can be used to do so much good, but they can also be used to do such evil.
When the Bible tells us how to live as Christians, it so often tells us that we need to put on and put off. It tells us that there are habits, patterns, and behaviors we need to stop, and new habits, patterns, and behaviors we need to begin. Today I want to look at 3 things we need to put off and put on as individuals, and tomorrow I will look at 3 things that we need to put off and put on as families.
(Note: Just yesterday Zondervan released a second edition of my book The Next Story and it comes complete with a few updates, an added chapter, and a new subtitle: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World. It covers some of this material, plus a whole lot more.)
Reject Distraction, Embrace Focus
Put off the distraction that pollutes this digital world and instead embrace deep focus. It is no great secret that this digital world brings all kinds of new ways to be distracted. Our technologies seem to evolve toward distraction, so that every new generation of device finds new ways to call us away from one thing and toward another. Our devices beep, buzz, flash, and chirp—whatever they need to do to gain our attention. Over time we have trained ourselves to obey them, which makes me wonder: If we need to respond to our phones every time they beep or buzz, do we own them, or do they own us? As our devices evolve toward distraction, my concern is that we are becoming people who love and long for distraction. We enjoy those distractions and almost come to depend upon them.
There is a cost to this. As Christians we are responsible to grow in wisdom, but wisdom comes only with effort. Information is easy—we are surrounded by it all the time—, but wisdom comes through concentration and meditation, and through carefully applying the truths of Scripture to our lives. How can we meditate and concentrate if we are always distracted? I used a printed Bible for many years and it never once beeped or buzzed or otherwise distracted me. But when I read the Bible on my phone, I am only ever a flash or chirp away from being completely side-tracked. I am only ever a click or swipe away from indulging in Netflix or YouTube or any other number of distractions.
The consistent call of the Bible is to be people who ponder God’s Word, who ponder the world around us, and who constantly grow in wisdom. We can only do this when we break away from our distractions and choose to focus. So Christian, put off distraction and put on concentration and meditation. Control your devices so they serve you as you grow in wisdom and grow in godliness.
Reject Isolation, Embrace Visibility
Put off the isolation of anonymity and put on the accountability that comes with visibility. I have often pondered what the Admiral Lord Nelson once said, that beyond Gibraltar every man is a bachelor. What he meant is that once British sailors sailed beyond the borders of their own land and empire, they very suddenly became different people. Once they moved beyond the accountability that came with visibility, they changed. As they sailed away from civilization, and wives, and parents, and families, they also sailed away from civilized behavior. Where they were alone and unknown they were free to behave however they wanted. And they behaved very badly.