In Neptune, NJ, we have a prime example of legalism dressed in its most lovely evening gown. A pastor is mandating that all the married church leaders are to delete their Facebook account. Failure to do so will be evidence of their resignation. Rev. Cedric Miller, the pastor of Living Word Christian Fellowship Church, says that he has done this due to noting that Facebook seems to be causing much of his recent marriage counseling dilemmas as it is rekindling old flames of the past. He has suggested that his congregation at least share their login information with their spouse, and intends to push for all members of his church to abandon Facebook altogether. You can view the link at:
A few posts ago I briefly broached the topic of legalism and how it adds to God’s Word where rules are concerned. I was going to blog about a different topic, but when I read this I decided that other topic would have to wait until tomorrow. This is a perfect illustration of how legalism presents itself. Now Pastor Miller isn’t adding works to salvation by saying that deleting your Facebook account is a vital part of repentance and must be done in order to be a true Christian. Nor is he saying that a Christian who is on Facebook hasn’t reached as high a spiritual plain as one who has forsaken the social networking site. What he has done, though, is out of concern for others mandated that anyone on the church payroll delete their Facebook account upon penalty of losing their job. This is legalism’s most famous clothing – making rules that are extra-biblical in the name of protecting the weak. She looks like love, she looks like the prime example of true beauty and godliness, but she isn’t. Paul dealt with her in Colossians 2:20-23. The biblical method of dealing with this is to teach people, to strengthen them. But instead this pastor has chosen to create a “controlled environment”. As stated before, the problem with this philosophy is that it keeps people weak.
This seems to fail to meet the method God has chosen for His children as Jesus specifically prayed that God wouldn’t take Christians out of the world, but protect them from the evil one. I believe this Facebook ban, has also failed to recognize that each believer has individual soul liberty (Paul addresses this in Romans ch. 14). The issue within the church is not Facebook, as Facebook is a tool that can be used for good or evil. The issue is that there are people within his congregation that are consumed with lust. Banning as many people as possible from Facebook is not addressing the root, it’s just masking the problem; all the while keeping the people weak and without discernment.
His suggesting that his congregants share their login information with their spouses is absolutely wonderful! My wife and I have access to each others e-mail and Facebook, although we never use the others. I don’t give her mine so she will give me hers because I don’t trust her. I trust my wife. I give her mine because it helps hold me accountable. I’ve not been tempted to use Facebook in an unfaithful manner, but this is an extra precaution I take, and it also shows her that anything I have is an open book. My wife and I are one. Now some married couples may not share their info, and that is fine also. It’s not mandatory, it’s a decision I have made. But enough about me and my wife – For the pastor to convince members to delete their Facebook accounts is not really addressing the problem. And there is a strong possibility that if his entire congregation, or most of them, do follow His suggestions then there will be an air of superiority toward those who still use Facebook. The going perception could turn into a belief that all those on Facebook are unfaithful to their spouse, or soon will be. Before long using “facebook” could be called worldly and “sinful”; just like the Independent Fundamentalists groups of 30 years ago spoke of going to the movie theatre or playing cards.
Now if the individual knows he/she is weak, then they may need to abstain from Facebook to maintain their commitment to their spouse. But to mandate this across the board, or exercise control over those under him, is to step beyond his biblical jurisdiction. A pastor is to strengthen the brothers/sisters, he is to feed the flock of God and help them learn to walk by the spirit. It is easier to keep them weak by removing any sort of possible trial causing event in their life, giving them blinders and an extra rulebook to walk by. I’m not saying that this pastor has ACTUALLY done all this in every instance of his ministry. I’m sure this man is a good pastor and is trying his best to love those in his church. I’m simply stating my disagreement with this sole action he has done, not attempting to indicate it is common practice for his entire ministry. If Pastor Cedric Miller were to ever read this (not that I flatter myself into thinking I’m important enough for him to actually read) then I hope he sees that I am not personally attacking him. I am sure he has nothing but the best intentions behind his actions. I am isolating this one instance and dissecting it, not him – he just happens to be the one that has provided the case study. I’m attempting to show what I believe to be the faulty philosophy behind it – although well meaning it may be.
Also, I don’t think I’m above falling in my marriage or fidelity to my spouse. I am in need of constant grace just like any other fallen human, but I don’t think this pastor’s actions are within his biblical jurisdiction, or wise. Paul realized that his preaching the gospel of grace was being misunderstood and misconstrued by some. They were of the opinion that if “where sin abounds, grace much more abounds” then why not sin more so God can glorify Himself by giving even more grace?! They were stumbling all over grace. But Paul didn’t change what he was teaching. He didn’t tell them lies to keep them from stumbling; he continued to proclaim free grace and to teach them how to live with this truth and not exploit it. I believe this is what we in the church should do when it comes to matters we face in our culture such as the one mentioned above.
I would say, if it were up to me to say (that’s the nice thing about blogs, whether it is mine to say or not in reality; on my blog it’s always mine to say), that if Facebook is causing you to stumble (if old passions for old flames are being rekindled) even in the slightest, then you need to either delete your account or only be on Facebook with your spouse present (some even create a joint Facebook account combining their and their spouses name) – the one you choose depends on the power of the temptation. In short flee fornication, fleeing taking one of the two forms mentioned above. BUT! If Facebook does not pose this temptation for you, then you need not delete your account. Share it with you spouse if you choose, but there is no biblical basis for me to mandate that you remove Facebook from your internet life. If you’re addicted to Facebook – if it’s keeping you from fulfilling your God given responsibilities, or is holding a place in your heart to that only God should hold (you’d be amazed at what the human heart can/will worship) – if Facebook is hindering your sanctification – GET OFF FACEBOOK! But if not, you can use it as it’s not a sin.
PS. I will pray for those marriages in his church that are being strained or torn apart. I do not fault the pastor for this. It’s not as if he has built weak marriages. I hope he doesn’t fault himself for it either. I also pray for that pastor as he has a huge issue on his hands and needs God’s wisdom to address. I encourage you to do the same.