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30 April 2018

Think different: a Christian approach to technology

Tony Watkins (LT pics 2016) Tony Watkins Sent Mission Partner
Korean woman on mobile phone - Creative Commons: Joe Pemberton CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Technology is a wonderful gift of God: it’s an expression of God’s image within human beings, who have been given creativity and skill to develop the resources of our world. Technology is the attempt to enhance life, and it promises us so much: tackling problems, making life easier, or just more enjoyable.

But technology also has a dehumanising effect, exerting subtle – or not so subtle – control over our behaviour. It distracts us from relationships, work, and our relationship with God.

Smartphones on train © Nicolas Nova CC-BY-NC-2.0

Think different – about how to keep growing as a person

Andy Crouch writes in his excellent book, The Techwise Family:

We are continually being nudged by our devices toward a set of choices. The question is whether those choices are leading us to the life we actually want.

We will never drift into becoming the person we should be. To counter the drift, we need to start with the right focus: on Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul writes:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1–2)

Jesus is the focus of life for a Christian, and our destiny is to live in the new creation with him for eternity (v. 4). That perspective decisively shapes how we live – including how we use technology.

Paul goes on to say we need to put to death the things that belong to our earthly nature (‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry’, v. 5). Their power has been broken at the cross, and that is where we find full and free forgiveness for all our sin.

Young women with smartphones © Garry Knight. CC-BY-2.0

Think different – about how to relate well to others

Social media are often characterised by people puffing themselves up and tearing others down. Christians must never fall into such patterns. Jesus’s death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of his Holy Spirit to live in us should transform the way we communicate:

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other . . . (Colossians 3:8–10)

It enables us to break down the divisions which plague our society:

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)

We are to adopt a new way of being, with the help of the Holy Spirit:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12–14)

Love – for God and others – should be what shapes all our use of technology and our activity online, so that ‘whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed, [we] do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:17).

Some questions to help you reflect on your use of technology

  • What is your sense of identity based on: the technology you own, the things you post in social media, or something more substantial?
  • Have a look through your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram timeline. What does it say about you and about what matters most to you? To what extent is the person you see reflected in your timeline the real you?
  • Do you actually know how much you use technology and when you use it? Keep a diary for a few days and make a note of every time you use some technology, and what you use it for.
  • Do you turn to technology when you’re anxious or bored, or because you can’t stop yourself? Or to meet a very specific need?

Some self-checking questions to ask when you’re using technology or sharing something online

  • Am I using this technology at this moment to help me love God and others, or as a means of self-gratification?
  • What is my motivation for this social media post: to reinforce my sense of identity or to bless others?
  • Are my comments online promoting good conversation to understand an issue more deeply, or am I stubbornly taking up an entrenched position, attacking others and refusing to hear what they say?
  • Why am I searching for this? To gain knowledge or insight? Or to gratify my fallen nature, prompted by lust, pride, laziness, or greed?

Recommended books

  • Andy Crouch, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place (Baker Books, 2017)
  • Ed Brooks and Pete Nicholas, Virtually Human: Flourishing in a Digital World (IVP, 2015)
  • Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (Crossway, 2017)
  • Bex Lewis, Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the best, avoiding the worst (Lion, 2014)

You can buy or order these from the church bookstall.

» Listen to Tony’s sermon, Think Digital: Being human in a digital world (29 April 2018)

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