Recently I read a post on Facebook from a friend (yes, I have those) who was bemoaning the fact that many of her Christian friends do not meet her expectation of how to behave on the social network. She said that she was “saddened to see so much vulgarity come out of the mouths of people on Facebook who call themselves believers.” As my friend was shocked at the Vulgarity among Christians, I must admit that I am often disheartened by something else: the Self-righteousness among Christians. Sometimes the self-righteousness and anger that is displayed on Facebook in the name of Christ can be very discouraging indeed. It seems to me that the judgmentalism and self-goodness that is expressed on FB does the gospel far more harm than the vulgarity ever could. It can also be a bit disconcerting to see the resistance to self analysis that exists in believers whose most empirically, self-evidential claim is the fact of our depravity. Doesn’t most every Christian who asserts the Gospel of Christ begin with the fact that we are big, fat, sinners? Yet, on that theological truth, how forgetful we are. I include myself in this.
So often I get on my moral high horse and forget that the gospel was designed for the worst men, not the best. When we forget that, we fancy ourselves as moral “policemen”, the “good men” who are helping out God by taking care of the riffraff, pointing out every petty offense, running down every jaywalker, writing citations for every poorly parked car, when we ourselves are murderers, thieves, and God haters, the very worst of outlaws. I pray that Christ continues to renew me in this truth, for I am prone to wander from it. In fact, even as I write this post, I have to be careful because I feel the idol of self-goodness rising up in me, patting me on the back because I suppose myself more righteous than the self-righteous. What a subtle idol!
As I reflect on the idolatrous “self-righteous” posture of us Christians, especially on Facebook and the internet, I remember that I am often like the character of Barney Fife on the old Andy Griffith Show. Barney was a deputy in Mayberry who had one bullet in his gun and an overdeveloped sense of morality – a dangerous combination. I remember one episode in particular where Barney is swearing in some new deputies, one of which is Floyd the Barber.
Barney: “That badge means something! Don’t any of you disgrace it.”
Floyd (sheepishly): “I won’t sir.”
Barney: Did you have permission to talk?
Floyd: “No sir.”
Barney: “What’s your badge number?”
Floyd (nervous): “Uh, Three”
Barney: Alright three…Watch it! Now listen men, and listen good. There’s liable to be trouble out there today. We’re liable to have folks among us who are here for more than just a good time if you know what I mean? Now the minute there looks like there’s gonna be trouble, we got to NIP IT! Nip it in the Bud! You got that? Let’s hear it?”
All Deputies: “Nip it in the Bud!”
Too funny. On a television show. In the world of make believe. Yet, as it plays out in reality, this posture of “Nip it in the bud!” is quite tragic. Even dangerous. I pray that as we believers in Christ interact on Facebook, we remember that we are not called to be God’s deputies. We are not the “good men”. We are the broken. And the gospel is always most beautiful, and the Spirit is most comfortable, in the hearts of broken men and women. It has always been so. With that said, I offer this video to those of us on Facebook who feel it is our duty to “police” the behavior of others.