As we read the news and see different documentaries about the use of algorithm, privacy, and addiction concerns, where does that leave internet ministry? Is there an ethical or theological reason we should get involved in that space? Shouldn’t we be wary and take a pass?
Well, those of us who have read our scripture remember Jesus avoided the sinful world at all cost. He taught locked in the synagogue. Would not interact or eat with sinful people. Avoided unclean places. All because he prized his ethical and moral purity above those trapped in a world of sin. The last thing he wanted was to be questioned by the scribes, Pharisees and the people who worked as officers in the temple. Who knows what they might do to him!
Oh wait… that’s not our understanding of Jesus and the ministry he called us into at all. That’s right! He taught both in and out of the physical church. He associated with sinners, the sick and unclean, as well as, those looked down upon and were even ostracized from the temple. He was questioned and challenged multiple times for it. He often stood, accused of breaking with sacred law. And it did not end peacefully for him in a well deserved retirement. Oh, and on top of that reality; we are called to take up our cross and follow him.
If there is sin and deceit, people victimized and taken advantage of, and the internet world is not the world we would want it to be, well, how is that at all different than the non virtual world? Why do we not see that as the driving force for needing to engage in the activity to provide love, hope, and healing in that world, instead of letting sin, addiction, and deception to exist unquestioned or unaddressed? Why do we imagine, Jesus would give up on “those people”, when he taught “they” are us?
We are called to walk into the situations where things are darkest. We are to walk into sinful places. We are to interact with the unclean. But not so we can participate in the sinfulness. We go to provide a message of love, hope, and healing into that sinfulness. We go and hope to bring light into the darkness. The reasons we all understand the internet to be sinful is the very reason there are people needing saved from and cared for in that sinfulness. We are not to abandon them to be destroyed in its midst.
We can not, in this society, tell people to abstain from the internet any more then we can preach that people abstain from the non virtual world. We can not live in a cocoon of sacredness and ignore those outside our cocoon. That WAS Jesus’s message of ministry. Jesus not only argued that, he went out of the green pasture to find those lost sheep!
However, our participation does require conversation and planning. We really can’t use our own disinformation to combat disinformation on the internet. We need to bring truth, specifically the sacred truth, which requires our prayer, study, and sharing of perception to define. We can not fight cult-like extremism by creating our own cult-like extremism. We need to bring peace of mind. And we certainly can’t fight the fear used to manipulate people into a certain ideology by creating our own fears and manipulation. We need to present the option of hope and healing. We become an oasis of love in the desert.
We need to be in the virtual world without being of the virtual world. I as one person, fallible and limited, can not lay out the single perfect plan to achieve that goal. It takes us all engaging and being God’s church in that part of the world. Likewise, it is also fine if you feel unprepared and unequipped to take on that challenge. We are just needing you to share God’s Word to you, as we have those conversations. This is no different than walking out into the non virtual, sin-filled world, to do ministry. Though we don’t always do it gracefully or at times — perfectly, we still acknowledge we are called to go.