Mark 1: 40-45 | 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Jesus in the Time of Social Media
As I read this gospel, I kept thinking that social media would not have been Jesus’s cup of tea. He wouldn’t be against it per se. But when He asked the leper to keep his healing quiet (v. 44), the leper couldn’t do that at a time when news was walked from town to town. The leper told everybody (v. 45) and word spread like wildfire. What if the leper had access to Facebook and Twitter?
Jesus knew His words and actions would create controversy with the authorities, and He wanted to be with us, His people, as long as possible. He knew news of His miracles and teaching would travel, but He hoped to slow the spread as long as possible. That gave me pause. Slow the spread of the Good News? Wow. Never thought that might be what God wants.
Much of the gospel runs contrary to human nature. Slowing down, for anything— including spreading God’s word— might be our most difficult challenge! My daughter gave me a bracelet inscribed with the word Selah. Meaning pause, it was used at the beginning of Hebrew scripture passages to remind listeners to think about the previous text before rushing to the next section. Pause. Breathe. Absorb.
When something good happens, we want to spread the word. Often with the best intentions, we want to convert as many people as possible to that new diet, exercise plan, cell plan, new whatever. We think it’s positive for something to go viral on social media, and our motives are often to help people. The thing is, God is the only one who can change people. We aren’t responsible for others, and often even our good motivations play out poorly for others—our friends, kids, and even strangers.
The thing is, we’re all made differently. What’s good for me may not be good for you. The only way I can know what’s truly good for me is to pause. To reflect. To spend time with God. I’m sure, the leper thought he was doing the world a favor—he was spreading the word so more people could be healed! He might have even thought Jesus had it wrong or perhaps in his excitement, the leper just couldn’t keep his mouth shut. (Guilty as charged…) Regardless, the word did spread and while more people were healed right then, in the longer term, his actions probably played a role in shortening Jesus’s life.
It’s so hard not to try to change people (including our children) or circumstances. But we don’t know what kind of longer-term damage we inadvertently inflict when we try to play God. The best witness is example and being willing to talk only if asked. By using the principle of Selah, we can cultivate a relationship with God that allows us to reflect His glory while allowing others to do the same in their own way, not ours. We remember than each of us is made in His image before we hit post on our latest social media offering.