As I look around me, it seems that videos are becoming the way for a lot of information to be communicated. Advertisements on TV and the Internet are video clips, and many how-to instructions online are done in video format. Rather than reading a newspaper, or even an online news feed, some people just browse from one video to the next. Even training courses are becoming video-based.
Having grown up through the pre-Internet era, I can appreciate how bandwidth increases over the years have allowed us to share this rich data, and intellectually, I can understand the benefits that videos provide. (I’m also glad for the digital age, in that we no longer have to keep track of bulky VHS tapes!) However, I confess that video is not always my favorite channel for learning something. When I need help fixing something around the house, I can read a lot faster than someone can talk (although it can be worth a lot to actually see the part that needs to be replaced). Similarly, I’d much rather learn additional details about a news article by reading more content, in the same amount of time that I can watch someone look at the camera and tell me about it.
Regardless of our opinions on how to best communicate, though, I think that we probably all find opportunities to leverage the best attributes of many different forms of sharing. Still, no matter how rich the data, one of the limitations of the Internet (as well as broadcast signals, print media, phones, and even electronic billboards) is that it can only share data – words, audio, pictures, videos, and information.
To be clear, I use computers a lot, both at home and at work. I’m responsible to develop, maintain, transmit, and consume a lot of data. I have nothing against the Internet, or other means of communication. Remotely-stationed missionaries can keep in touch with friends, family, and supporters. People on military deployment can talk with their children via live video. Research can be done more quickly than ever (although more data from unverified sources does come with the risk of errors or contradictions).
However, no means of earthly communication can fully share what is most important about each of us: our heart.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 NLT
I can appreciate that what we communicate (whether in-person or indirectly) is the result of what is present in our heart, and that we can learn about others’ hearts from what we read or see from them. But, let’s be real, here: It’s called “Facebook” for a reason. Social media is primarily focused on sharing external things: what someone did today, how their food looked, something that they read, a selfie of them with someone else, etc. I appreciate that these platforms can be used positively, and for very personal sharing, but it also allows users to mask their hearts with a nice “face” to the world.
Let’s be honest, sometimes what I send over the web might look good to people, and maybe even convince them that I’m a pretty good guy. But, if my heart isn’t aligned with the attitudes and principles that Jesus showed us, none of it – the words I type, the pictures I take, the videos I may edit – means anything in terms of how God sees me. He is not – and can not – be fooled by a façade.
So, the first step is to clean up our hearts. However, for those who have done that, in a world of showing others mostly what we want them to see, how can we show our hearts in a way that makes a positive difference?
- For one thing, when we do talk (or type or text or chat or post), we can be honest and transparent about what is on our hearts. I’m not saying that we are all being dishonest today (just a little “filtered”), nor am I suggesting that we should just unload all of our baggage to the Internet. However, I think that when others understand that the real Jesus rescues real people from real sin into a real life (which includes both joy and sorrow), maybe they will consider that they really need Him, too.
- Another way to show our heart is to allow it to pour out into our actions. If we say that we love someone, but that love doesn’t impact what we do, I think that we have to question whether we really have love for that other person. Jesus made it clear that loving Him should result in following His instructions (see John 14:15), and He has given us good commands to follow because He loves us. Praying for others is a great thing to do; however, as good as that is, it’s even better to pray for them, meet their needs, take actions to help them out, and serve them (as you are able).
- And, I believe that God gave us healthy relationships to give us chances to make our hearts visible (and sometimes to receive feedback for improving the state of our hearts). He formulated His plan for us – even after we failed at the original offer that He extended to us – in the form of a relationship, and Jesus (God the Son) demonstrated a range of positive relationships as He taught, mentored, and became friends with varying spheres of people around Him.
So, don’t let the Internet be heart-less and cold. It’s just a bunch of interconnected computers, but it can carry a message of hope. Even if you leverage technology to do so, work to have a heart aligned with God, one that God will choose to do His will, and be part of His plan.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.