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The Joy of Meeting Face to Face: Social Media and Cyber Relationships

This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Taylor Mendoza, Northpoint’s Junior High Ministry Intern.

The Joy of Meeting Face to Face: Social Media and Cyber Relationships

Dear Church Family,

Every year, Instagram users upload 21.9 billion photos to the visual social network. According to a study done by the photo company Photoworld, it would take many lifetimes just to double-tap every photo. Kim Kardashian (the reigning queen of Instagram’s most-liked photo) would have to spend 286 million years just to post that many selfies. The study found that if you printed out each and every Insta photo uploaded this year and stacked them up, they would climb up thousands of miles. Get this: If you only printed the number the photos that were uploaded within the last 37 minutes, your stack would easily zip past the Empire State Building.

Ours is a virtual world. And this virtual world is becoming a reality. In John Suler’s article The Two Paths of Virtual Reality, he writes, “Virtual reality is a reality that has the effect of actual reality but not its authentic form. It’s a kind of simulation or substitute, but one with potency and validity. It gets close to the real thing. In its effect on people, it’s practically the real thing.” Emotional attachments and relational connections can be established even when mediated by text message.

In the face of cyber relationships, we need biblical help! How do we make sense of the new virtual reality?

The Answer

I think the answer can be found in 2 John 12, where the apostle John wrote: “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

– A train of thought

First, follow the train of thought: The apostle John has much to write, but would rather do something else. John finds something else better, or more profitable. In other words, John finds something else more preferable.

What is more preferable? Talking face to face. John prefers to talk face to face in real space and time. Personal engagement matters. Follow the next thought: It is more preferable than what? Paper and ink.

Now pay close attention to the next important phrase: “so that our joy may be complete.” John finds talking face to face more preferable than using paper and ink because his joy will be complete when they meet face to face. The purpose of John coming to them is for their joy and his joy. This implies that joy already exists in the present relationship, but is not complete until they can see each other face to face. At the very least, we get the importance and the relationship between face to face interaction and joy.

– The face of God

Second, if you follow the theme of seeing the “face of God” throughout Scripture, it is easy to understand the type of joy that John is talking about. This is the same type of joy that Zacchaeus experienced in Luke 19. Here, Zacchaeus is famous for running along the street, climbing a sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus face to face. His joy and excitement are wrapped up in seeing Jesus. Even though Zacchaeus was small in stature, nothing was going to stop him from seeing Jesus. What is rather interesting is Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus. Jesus takes notice of him in the midst of an extremely large crowd. It seems that Jesus himself applauds those who wish to see His face. In this case, Zacchaeus. Face to face interaction between the Savior and His people, brings ultimate delight to those who seek His face.

What you may find even more interesting is the difference between Exodus 33:17-23 and Revelation 22:3-5. For in the one passage, Moses asks God to show him His glory, and God’s response is, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” In the Old Testament God makes it abundantly clear that a human being would die if they looked upon the face of the Lord. However, by the time we reach Revelation 22:3-5, we are told, “they (Christ’s Bride) will see his face.” Here in the New Testament after the return of Christ, all of God’s beloved bride will see the face of God.

What’s the difference? Why is there such a big shift?

Concluding Thoughts

The answer is rather simple, and I would like to tackle this one through the side door. Perhaps the largest objection to the passage in 2 John, and the effect of cyber relationships on us, is the ambiguity and uncharted ground engulfing the topic. As a teacher, I have found that people are not satisfied with secondary benefits. For example, I have argued before, that face to face relationships are better and more preferable because countenance is visible, physical affection is available, there is better clarity, and it’s the best environment to confront sin. However true, this doesn’t seem to convince anyone, especially youth. We still love cyberspace!

The reason that the bride of Christ can see the face of God and Moses could not, was because of Jesus. The doctrine of the incarnation makes it possible to see the face of God and not die. Jesus gave up His place in the throne room and did not count equality a thing to be grasped (Phil. 2:1-10) in order to have face to face interaction with His people. He became like us in every way so that He might atone for those He has chosen and loved. It is no wonder that the Roman Centurion believed that Jesus was the son of God at the crucifixion; he had seen the face of God.

Ultimate joy is found in face to face interaction, not because it has better benefits than social media and cyber relationships, but because this is how God has chosen to save His people. God has taken a people who could not see His face, given them the God/man who we could see face to face, so that in ultimate consummation we can, and will, behold the glory and face of God. If that isn’t convincing enough, then I don’t know what will be. The implications of this are incredible, and I hope that you will join me as we think about this crucial topic, and seek His face.

For the Kingdom,