Have you ever heard of a “Selfie-Stick?” This past Christmas I was surprised with the gift of one, and a favorite one at that! First, for the uninformed, let me explain the term “selfie.” A selfie is a rather new word that refers to taking a self-portrait, usually with one’s phone. Some take pictures of themselves by standing in front of a mirror, which in my opinion is quite strange since the camera is now part of the portrait. The other method – my preferred technique – is to extend the arm holding the camera and click the picture. Many would agree that the longer the arm, according to the rules of perspective, the better the portrait. With a selfie-stick you can take the camera out another couple of feet and actually take a pretty decent selfie that does not look like a selfie. I guess if Jim Walls was using one it would look like a panoramic shot.
Now that every other person on the globe has a phone with a camera, the world is awash in selfies. Perhaps we are a nation of narcissists. Or maybe because of technology we feel the need to document everything – and include a self-portrait in the picture. Or maybe we are just lonely and it is nice to see a familiar face at a ballgame, or at a concert, or eating a Tex-Mex combo platter.
Maybe I should take my selfie-stick to church this Sunday. I think it would be kind of cool to snap a selfie with all my “peeps” beneath or near the steeple (Am I sounding hip? Probably not. “Peeps” is urban slang that went out of usage when the hipsters took over. I am holding out for the grizzled-haggard look to become hip, but I digress).
Church can fall into the cultural quagmire of selfishness too. Small-groups, Sunday School classes, and ministries can look like “selfies” that are familiar, yet lonely. Long ago disciples hid behind locked doors out of fear, but Jesus not only found his way in, but in turn opened the doors wide – “No more selfies! Get out there and love the neighbor, the stranger, and the outsider like I taught you!” (That is the Greg DeLoach Version [GDV] from Matthew 28:19)
In this life God created us not to live as walking “selfies” but to live in vibrant community. While the phrase “Covenant of God” sounds heavy with legalism, it really is a generous invitation to save us from ourselves so that we can live more fully with one another. Life together is not a closed community of insiders against the outsiders, but a porous way of living, relating, serving and advocating. A cursory reading of the Bible reminds us that God is particularly concerned about neighbors, outsiders, and strangers.
One of the most memorable stories Jesus told followed an exchange over the commandments. Nowadays we either recoil at the thought of debating law or we settle back in polite boredom. Jesus has a way of transforming commandments into purposeful living. Jesus taught that to love God and love one’s neighbor were the two most important commandments and then tells the story of “The Good Samaritan.” The story ends with a surprise resolution of the outsider doing good to the one most in need, to which Jesus asks: “Which of these…was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The answer is obvious: “The one who showed him mercy.” (Luke 10:36-37)
The commissioning is obvious too: Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
May God commission you on a mission of mercy with your family, with your colleagues, and with complete strangers. May your “selfies” be filled with neighbors and acts of generosity.
Peace and love be yours this day,