With the explosion of social media over the last fifteen years more and more middle-aged people have been using Facebook. It’s an understatement to say we have all been on a steep learning curve to figure it out, especially in establishing healthy boundaries and being careful about what we reveal and what we interpret about others via social media.
Because the truth is, people use Facebook in various ways:
Some only post photos. And maybe only photos of grandchildren and family members at special events. Others will post photos only when on vacation or when travelling. I tend to be in the foodie group, posting mostly when visiting a restaurant with friends or family.
Then there are those who will only ‘share’ what other people post – memes or inspirational sayings, or witty quotes. And/or some will only write blog-style commentary on political issues. Others will treat Facebook like a daily diary, posting what they ate for breakfast and complain about the late-night noise their neighbors made during last night’s party.
It’s telling what your Friends on Facebook don’t post about. Few will reveal everything about their lives on social media. In fact, you are warned not to draw conclusions about your Friends’ lives based only on what they post. You see only a slice—a small part—of their lives.
When we forget this, and presume that what they post represents exclusively what is important in our Friends’ life, we get into trouble. Our relationship with them will suffer when misunderstandings result in presumptions about our Friends’ lives drawn from only one, revealed slice of the pie. We need to be careful on social media about how what we see reflects the truth of our Friend’s life.
The gospel accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus vary. We see different slices of the same pie, different viewpoints, from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Matthew and Mark offer very similar accounts. Almost word for word, these Gospel writers describe the spectacular events atop the mountain: Jesus brings his disciples. He is transfigured before them. A cloud appears over them and out of which God’s voice speaks. Peter wants to build dwellings. And at the end, Jesus instructs them not to tell anyone until he has been raised from the dead.
But while both accounts describe the transfiguration by mentioning Jesus’ clothes turning a dazzling white, Matthew alone adds a particular detail, that Jesus’ face shone like the sun. And while both accounts point to the disciples’ fear, Matthew adds comforting words from Jesus encouraging them ‘not to be afraid.’ And, while both include the disciples’ query, after they come down the mountain, concerning Elijah, only Matthew adds an interpretation linking Elijah to John the Baptist.
The Gospel of Luke emphasizes prayer as a context for what Jesus was doing during his transfiguration. And while Jesus was praying Luke draws our attention, like Matthew but unlike Mark, to Jesus’ face. But unlike both Matthew and Mark, Luke does not mention at all the latter discussion about Elijah.
And finally, the Gospel of John doesn’t even tell the transfiguration story. Some, however, will argue that John 1:14 is John’s way of including the meaning of the Transfiguration: “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son full of grace and truth.”
Each account talks about the same event in a different way. Each brings a unique aspect, perspective, on the story. Each reveals a different point of view, which is its own view from a point.
It’s not that one is right and another is wrong. Getting distracted by this method of study is not helpful. Trying to reconcile and account for all the differences can lead us down rabbit holes not worth pursuing if it only leaves us mired in endless debate, division and mental conflagrations.
The wisdom of those who put the bible together can be appreciated here. There is diversity built right into the bible. Those who put the compilation we call the bible together—it is more a library, after all—knew that the more that can be described about Christ the better. It gives readers multiple access points to gain a deeper understanding of the mystery that is Christ.
The way to resolving the problem with Facebook – when we think we know someone’s life only by what they post – is to get to know your Friend more. Better face to face, or some direct contact. And, more to the point, deepen your understanding of your Friend beyond what Facebook reveals, or doesn’t reveal.
They say the truth of the matter is revealed more in what is not said than what is. It’s the pretext, or reading in between the lines. If what you see gives you only one slice of the pie, one aspect, of who that person is, then you are called to go deeper, to learn more about the other aspects of your Friend’s life: what is important to them, what they value, who they truly are.
Learning Jesus is one of the habits outlined in Michael Frost’s book, “Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People”, which we will study during the coming season of Lent. Frost suggests that we need to develop a greater understanding of Jesus. Not merely ask that arm’s length question: What Would Jesus Do? But rather, delve into what Jesus would do and who he would be here and now.
We are called to know Jesus, to learn Jesus, to immerse ourselves in Christ, soaking up the Gospel and digesting its meaning. In so doing we enter into a more constant state of awakened, intimate presence. We are awake, and present, in Christ, to all that we encounter and do in our daily, common existence.
The season of Lent just around the corner, is a good time to resolve to get to know our Friend—what a Friend we have—in Jesus. In the contemplation and commitment to action that Lent calls forth from us, we journey together into these forty days, knowing if nothing else at the start, that Jesus walks with us no matter what.
Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13
Michael Frost, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2016), p.73-74