Facebook and the Image of God

Ever wonder about the appeal of Facebook and other web-based social networks? Why would millions of people all over the world want to plaster their names and faces, their likes and dislikes, and their current physical, emotional, or spiritual status all over the worldwide web? I confess I am one of them. I started my own Facebook “profile” and began collecting “friends” several years ago when I realized it was the best way to keep up with the college students to whom I was pastor. But in recent months, I’ve begun to reconnect with people that I haven’t seen or talked to in twenty years. Friends from high school and college, folks in their forties like me, have begun to discover Facebook as a way to get in touch with old friends and stay in touch with current ones.

There are plenty of pundits who are wary of this trend, claiming that this is another symptom of the narcissism this generation has apparently contracted. I can’t disagree entirely with this theory, but I’d like to suggest that the Facebook phenomenon may have as much to do with human design as it does with human depravity.

There’s at least one lesson we can learn from the Facebook craze: We all long to know and be known by others. Yes, at their worst these social network sites can be a mild (sometimes not so mild) form of exhibitionism, but when you get right down to it people just want to be known. I want the people in my world to know me, so I post pictures of my family because they are part of me. I list the books I’ve read because they have shaped me. I share my favorite quotes because they tell others what I value and believe. I update my status so that others know where I am…literally and figuratively. I want to be known. And I’m not alone.

It is also true that at their worst social network sites can encourage and enable virtual voyeurism. Some people spend too much time following the lives of other people. But let’s face it, all of us are fascinated with people aren’t we? Ever done some “people-watching” while you’re waiting for a plane? And why do we tend to collect so many “friends,” and what about that good feeling you get when someone invites you to be their Facebook friend? I want to know others, and so do you.

Certainly my desire to know and be known by others can become obsessive and get out of proportion, but I’m curious to know why the desire is there at all.

I believe it’s because I was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God wants to know and be known by others. Self-revealing and other-relating are part of the nature of who God is. In his helpful little book concerning the street-level impact of the doctrine of the Trinity, Experiencing the Trinity, Darrell W. Johnson writes:

‘At the center of the universe is a relationship.’ That is the most fundamental truth I know. At the center of the universe is a community. It is out of that relationship that you and I were created and redeemed. And it is for that relationship that you and I were created and redeeemed! And it turns out that there is a three-fold-ness to that relationship. It turns out that the community is a Trinity. The center of reality is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…the doctrine of the the Trinity is not the result of philosophical speculation carried out in ivory towers, cut off from real life. It is the result of ordinary believers trying to make sense of the facts of God’s self-revelation–and trying to live in the light of those facts (pp. 37, 39).

Johnson goes on to talk about one of the “everyday consequences” of the doctrine of the Trinity:

First, we know why when relationships go sour, all of life goes sour. We were created in the image and likeness of God…There are many dimensions of God’s character we were created to reflect. But chief among them is this ‘us-ness’ of God. God does not exist alone; and neither do we who are created in God’s image. Thus God says of Adam in the garden, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18). Why? Because Adam will be lonely, yes. But more importantly because ‘Adam alone’ is not Adam in the image of God. God is not a solitary God. Adam does not reflect who God is until Adam shares life with Eve…It is because we are created in the image of the Trinity that loneliness is so crushing, that broken relationships are so debilitating, that death is so painful. Lack of loss of relationship violates our essential nature, created to reflect the relational essence of God (pp. 52-53).

Our longing to know others and be known by them is part of our human design that has been twisted by our human depravity. Our involvement in the Facebook community is a reflection of our design for community, but when Facebook becomes a source of knowing and being known that takes precedence over community with the Trinity and unity with His Church (John 17) , then our Facebook-ing is more a reflection of our depravity.

One last thought: God has His own Facebook profile. If you want, you can go there and see the ways in which God has made Himself known to us and through which we are able to know Him as our friend: through Creation (Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:19-20), through the Bible (Psalm 19:7-11, 2 Peter 1:16-21), and most clearly and intimately through Jesus Christ’s person (Hebrews 1:1-3, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6) and people (John 17:20-23, 1 John 4:11-12).

We desire to know and be known because He first desired to know and be known.

One thought on “Facebook and the Image of God

  1. Pingback: Facebooking by Faith « The Cruciform Life Blog

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