As a Christian I am aware of my responsibility to show my belief in Jesus Christ in the different aspects of my life. It is not just enough to live as a disciple of Christ on Sunday; rather, in my personal and work life I should try to emulate the qualities that Christ showed — not as a weekend warrior, but as an everyday disciple.
To be sure I am doing so, I ask myself this question: How consistent am I in following Christ? My relationship with Jesus Christ is not an accessory I remove when it becomes uncomfortable or when I want an easier life. It must be permanently a part of who I am.
Although I am far from perfect, I am working on developing these habits. And as I constantly evaluate myself in my home, personal, church and work life, I find that recent years have introduced a new element: my virtual life. I consider myself to be a “typical” social media user; I do not interact with second-life games, for example, but I do use Twitter and Facebook regularly. I love the opportunities they give me to communicate and keep in touch with people around the world.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve offered a warning voice in a June 2010 Ensign article: “Sadly, some young men and young women in the church today ignore 'things as they really are' and neglect eternal relationships for digital distractions, diversions and detours that have no lasting value.”
Hopefully, most people are on their guard against such distractions and focus on real-world relationships. While this topic could be explored in so many ways, recently I have reflected most deeply on one particular element of virtual life.
A number of my friends, some of faith and some not, feel it is OK in the virtual world to use language they would not use in the “real world." I would never type anything that I would not say, whether a swear word, the vain use of the name of the Lord, or an inappropriate comment. No matter how much we want it to mean something different, "OMG" does not stand for "Oh my goodness." Weekend warriors adapt their language to go with the flow of what is accepted in the virtual world. Everyday disciples use language that uplifts and inspires wherever they may be found (in life, in the virtual world or on the basketball court).
As a person of faith I try to follow the golden rule, variously articulated in different faiths of the world, but by Jesus in this way: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).
On Facebook, it is easy to NOT treat other people how we would want to be treated. Sometimes it happens directly; at other times, pointed statements are used that only people “in the know” would understand. In some ways we try to score verbal body blows without directly dealing with an issue.
We users of the virtual world need to strengthen each other in our conversations and statuses. Do not write a status to vent anger or upset others, and do not respond to others' statements sarcastically or in a way that will exacerbate a situation. Let us not neglect the opportunity to deal with our issues in a “real” way rather than through a very public point-scoring online exercise.
Although the admonition “What Would Jesus Do?” can seem overused, it still applies to our lives in the virtual world. In either world we need to consider the commitments we have made to be disciples of Christ. Are the pointed comments we make, games we play and language we use evidence of an everyday disciple or just a weekend warrior?
James Holt is a Senior Lecturer in Religious Education at the University of Chester, UK. He occasionally blogs at www.ldstn.wordpress.com and www.theseplates.blogspot.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org