FIRST-PERSON: Your Facebook identity
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- When Mark Zuckerberg was a teenager at Phillips Exeter Academy, he kept up with students' names and faces by using a "face book" -- a booklet published annually containing the names and pictures of students and faculty.
Zuckerberg is now 32 and a billionaire as the result of creating his own face book: Facebook.com, the largest social networking site on the Internet. Since Facebook has more than 1 billion registered users, there's a chance you are a member or have a friend or relative who is.
A place where lots of people know your name
The TV comedy "Cheers" used its theme song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name," to touch a nerve in American culture: the need to connect with others. Cheers' characters met daily to stay in touch, proving the theme song's premise: "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name."
That's what Facebook has become -- a place for "friends" to share life. I put "friends" in quotations because on Facebook the term is used loosely, to put it mildly. If you aren't familiar with Facebook, a "friend" is someone you are linked with and with whom you can share information, pictures and the like. Some people accumulate "friends" for the prestige factor. But most people genuinely want to be in touch with family, acquaintances and, yes, actual friends.
But there is another side to putting yourself "out there" on a social networking site like Facebook.
Your life –- for all the world to see
Once you go public on Facebook, you are inviting the entire world to know about your life -- or at least hundreds of "friends." The larger your "friends" network, the more likely someone will read something you thought would stay private and make it public. For that reason, Facebook becomes a source of accountability.
For Christians, Facebook is another opportunity to ask ourselves, Who am I? Who is the person I am presenting to the world? What are my friends learning about me? Is my Christian walk matching my Christian talk? Am I the same person on Facebook as I am in church?
Living a life above reproach
It's always been true that "you can run, but you can't hide" -- and the internet has made it doubly true. But we shouldn't want to! What can we do to live the kind of life the apostle Paul called "blameless," or "above reproach" (1 Timothy 3:2)? How can we live a life in which there is no dividing wall between public and private?
First, live intimately and honestly before God. When the double life King David had been living was brought to light by a prophet from God, he recorded his psalm of contrition for all to read (Psalm 51). What he thought was hidden had been in God's sight all along.
David's other great testament to transparency is found in Psalm 139 where he confessed that God is everywhere and sees everything. He concluded with what should be our prayer daily: "Search me, know me, test my heart, show me anything You see that I don't see. And lead me in Your way" (Psalm 139:23-24, paraphrased).
Second, live openly before the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that everything is "naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." God shows us what He sees in us by the "living and powerful" Word of God, revealing the "thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Psalm 119:9 reminds us that we "cleanse" our way by "taking heed according to [God's] word." Meditating "day and night" on "the law of the LORD" will result in the "reproof" and "correction" we need (Psalm 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:16).
Third, live accountably before others. Hebrews 10:24-25 affirms that we are to motivate "one another" to live a life of "love and good works," "exhorting one another." Family is our first line of defense against living with double standards. The family of God should be second. If you are not in a small group or some other context with Christians, you are missing out on one of the chief blessings of the body of Christ: accountability for a life of holiness.
If you are a member of Facebook, use it as a place to cultivate the life you want your best friend, Jesus Christ, to see daily.