Technology, Convictions, and the Brotherhood
There is much difference of opinion on the subject of technology and its uses. Some strongly promote the use of technology and others strongly discourage some uses. Few congregations have a membership that all think one hundred percent alike on this subject. How can we have diversity of feelings and convictions on this subject and still pull together in harmony? Is it even possible?
One thing that is desperately needed with technology challenges today is alert people who are willing to draw lines and make wise, safe decisions for themselves and their families. Church leaders cannot possibly patrol this subject alone in a congregation. Personal convictions are needed. A willingness to administrate a line for our families is a must. Too much concern that I must have and do what everyone else has and does will take us down to the lowest common practice. Another much needed skill is the ability to evaluate how these things are affecting us and what it is producing. Backing away and seeing the bigger picture is difficult but necessary. Honest evaluations will help us curb obsessions and the wasting of time. If we find something hindering our spiritual life, we may need to cut it off even while others are still using it. It may be they can handle what we cannot. Someone has suggested that we consider a technology fast occasionally to back away and more clearly evaluate our life and its involvements with technology.
These personal journeys may well take us each on somewhat different paths. What one family does to protect themselves might be more restrictive than another. Others may choose to stay clear of most technology and actually feel uncomfortable seeing people actively involved in it. Still others may be on the cutting edge of new things and scarcely think anything of it. All of this variation poses a test for brotherhood unity and peace.
The early church faced a divisive issue – circumcision and keeping the law – that likely had deeper feelings attached to the subject than this issue of technology. Several over-all observations can be made. First, the leadership at Jerusalem met, discussed the matter, and gave direction. It seems apparent that for these important issues there needs to be a voice from the church to give some guidance.
Second, it seems apparent that they had keepers-of-the-law in the same churches as none-keepers-of-the-law. That line probably did not slice neatly down the middle between Jews and Gentiles. Eventually there had to be Christian Jews who laid aside the keeping of the law. One can only imagine the feelings of staunch Jews as they realized the change into the New Covenant. Yet the church experienced a measure of rest in this time period.
Romans 14 gives us some important principles to guide us through this variation of convictions. First, some differences of opinions, practices, and convictions are normal in church life. Our backgrounds vary. Our need for technology is not the same. We should allow some room for some variation; yet all within the bounds of our brotherhood agreements.
Second, charity, peace, and edification must rule in these things. There should be an openness to talk about these things and learn from each other. We should avoid suppositions and speculation about what others might be doing with their technology. We must learn to trust the integrity of our brethren all the while realizing the subtle snares that can easily steal our hearts. Accountability provides strength and edification.
Attitudes must be kept in check and tested by the Word. 1 Corinthians 12 addresses the concept of the church being a body of many members. Two attitudes are not allowed. First, one may not say or think, “Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body.” neither may we say, “I have no need of you.” These wrong attitudes come when we try to calculate the worth of each other in the church. Rather, we must all understand that while we are different, we each fill an important role in God’s kingdom. On the subject of technology, some groups tend to look up to individuals who have the latest technology as being the most important people in the church, while those without are considered old-fashioned. But other groups tend to go the exact opposite route. They can be suspicious of those who are involved with technology and value those without as being the most important in the church. Are these thoughts really what God wants us to have? Does the use or non-use of the latest inventions make a difference in the value of a person in God’s sight? Will these “value systems” accomplish peace, charity, and edification in the church?
Third, we each must answer before God for our life. Even if we are keeping all the brotherhood agreements about how we use technology, we can step outside the will of God and indulge in sinful activities. It is important that we have and keep a clear conscience and a pure heart. We are personally responsible before God for the things we think, do, and say.
It is important for churches to honestly evaluate the need for internet use and make guidelines that are safe and can be honored in the work place where it is needed. If members must violate church direction to do their work, their conscience becomes tainted. What will keep that conscience from breaking more of the laws of God and the church? Committed, obedient members with clean consciences and pure hearts bless the church and help to make it flourish!
Fourth, we must be careful not to cause the weak in the faith to stumble. We should think through the pressures, snares, and temptations that each form of technology brings to us and consider how to help the weak ones make it through faithfully. We may need to say “no” to some things. Around other things we may need to set up protective fences. Deuteronomy 22:8 says, “When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.” This railing was helpful to keep the young inexperienced ones from falling off the house top. But it also helped the older ones in a weak or careless moment. There is a sense that all of us are weak by virtue of our humanity and need battlements of protection.
Fifth, most items are amoral in and of themselves. Romans 14:14a “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself.” The use of an item makes it for good or for bad. Tools of technology are basically amoral tools that become morally good or morally bad depending how we use them. Our own integrity will influence this to a large degree. Titus 1:15 says, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” We must be careful to hold our heart accountable for choices to indulge in wrong things and not excuse ourselves because some form of technology got us into evil. It is far too easy to say, “I couldn’t help myself. The temptation was right there.” Rather we should say, “I realize anew the pull toward evil that lies within my heart.”
Sixth, we are the Lord’s in every aspect of our lives. We are not our own. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Could we say, “Whether therefore you text or Google, do all to the glory of God.” As a brotherhood it is easy to get our focus off of glorifying God and on to glorifying man and his possessions. Strife will be our lot when we depart from this calling. Too much focus on our possessions and technological tools will rob God of attention that is due to Him and stir jealousy in our hearts.
Seventh, “for meat destroy not the work of God” (Rom 14:20). 1 Corinthians 8:9 says, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.” We must be open to the idea that sometimes abstinence from something is the best option for protection for all. Could we say, “for some item of technology destroy not the church of God”? Let us be willing to practice some self-denial for the good of our brothers and sisters. Can we discuss forms of technology and agree on ways to help ourselves? Can we submit to the concerns of a faithful brotherhood?
There are values in a brotherhood setting minimum standards for use of technology. One, it serves as a platform to identify the areas of greatest test. It helps all of us understand the dangers involved. The young and tender ones find security and direction until they are able to sort through the issues themselves. Two, it forms a basis of common concern and unifies our practices to some degree. usually the process of making a standard involves discussion in the brotherhood about the blessings and snares; this brings safety. This awareness and interaction builds conviction if done in a godly, caring way. The flip side of this coin can bring a snare where we then compare our minimum church standard with another group’s and feel smug that we are better than they because of where our line is. God help us to be wise, safe, and kind in all of our ways.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the [technology pressures of our day]. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against [the snares of the internet, against unwholesome social connections, against the lust for lewd pictures and movies , against discontentment and the urge to hear or tell some new thing, against idolatry and desire for power, against unbridled use of our phones, and such like]. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore...” (Eph 6:10–14) paraphrased.