March 2021 Letter

Dear Friends in Christ,
For my Lenten observance this year, I have chosen to fast social media. I am not sure how I arrived at the decision to give up social media for forty days, though it may have been influenced by a Facebook post I saw on Shrove Tuesday which read, “What are you giving up for Lent?” When I saw that post, I immediately thought of social media, though I did not make a firm decision on it until Ash Wednesday—after which it was too late to tell my Facebook friends, “I’m fasting social media!” Now, on top of social media withdrawal, I also have this nagging fear that I am offending people on Facebook on account of my silence to any of their posts or messages. Sheesh, it is going to be a long Lent.

At the same time, I am learning a thing or two by fasting. First of all, although I am less than a week into my fast I am already discovering how much time and attention social media eats into my daily life. For instance, one of my go-to moves when I find myself with idle time on my hands is to scan my phone for messages and email. I then scroll through social media posts on social media where I get sucked into watching cat videos and sharing humorous memes. Little did I realize how much time and energy I spend going down these rabbit holes. I know this because now, when I check my phone, I still read texts and email but when my thumb reflexively opens a social media app, my brain kicks in and immediately sends the command to close it.

It is a good example of how unhealthy habits can grow unbeknownst to us. Not that social media is inherently bad, but how many cat videos does a person have to watch? The ability for social media to suck time out of our days is immense, and it gives new meaning to Hebrews 12:1-2 for me:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin [or social media] that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Social media has a way of clinging closely and slowly drawing our attention to it, consuming more and more of our time. Now that I am aware of it, it makes me wonder what other things compete for my time and attention without my knowing it.

As I ponder these things—the weight of clingy sin and how little habits can become major consumers of time—a second realization has come to me: Jesus’ strength and resolve against sin was amazing. Hebrews 4:15 records, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus endured every temptation Satan can throw at us, and yet he prevailed. He knows what it is like to be tempted, to be human. Because of his victory over sin and death, he is able to provide a path to free us from the weight of all those clingy and destructive sins—through faith in him. Jesus offers us new life because he has experienced our lives and knows the suffering we endure.

This is reflected in the Confession of 1967, which reads: The new life finds its direction in the life of Jesus, his deeds and words, his struggles against temptation, his compassion, his anger, and his willingness to suffer death. The teaching of apostles and prophets guides people in living this life, and the Christian community nurtures and equips them for their ministries.

It is going to be a long Lent, but may God bless our fasts such that they may reveal in us the sins that cling so closely to us. And may we find strength to resist temptation in Jesus, the one who did so without fail, the one who—through no fault of his own—suffered death on a cross to free us from the weight and punishment of sin.

Godspeed,

matt sig