December 3, 2017

Faith on Facebook

I opened my Facebook profile and wrote nearly 1,000 words in less than a half hour.

Jimmy Phillips

By nature I’m a pretty calculated guy. I read all the reviews on Expedia when I need to book a hotel room, then sweat the difference between 3.9 and 4 stars. I have a running list at all times of things I need to get at the store: divided into such categories as “household stuff,” “food,” and “produce.” I could go on, but you get the idea.

I’ve been writing for the Review for about a decade now. When I write a column, it is generally the product of something I’ve been mulling on for months, or an experience that deeply affected me. I don’t write off the cuff.

But in the wake of the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, I was reminded that there are times God calls us to do less-precise planning and take action.

I opened my Facebook profile and wrote nearly 1,000 words in less than a half hour.

During the past 20 years our country has experienced a plethora of these kinds of events in schools, churches, and nightclubs. But this one hit a bit closer to home. With Las Vegas only four hours away, we had connections with a number of the victims.

The day after the shooting, I noticed a variety of posts about God on Facebook. Probably the most interesting was from a man who said he went to the concert as an agnostic but left as a believer. He said that without God he would not have survived. Of course, in the comments he was berated for insinuating that God valued his life above those who were killed. Most of these comments came from a worldview in which a God of love cannot exist, because if He did, He would not allow something like this to happen.

The question of God’s character has plagued humanity for millennia, causing some to question their faith, leave the church altogether, or never consider Christianity a viable option.

In the face of so much suffering and confusion, this calculated columnist just started typing. I opened my Facebook profile and wrote nearly 1,000 words in less than a half hour. I introduced the post with the simple phrase “A post about the battle between good and evil, and why God seems to stand by and allow bad things to happen.”*

It didn’t quite go viral, but it did get shared 44 times, some by people I didn’t even know. One such share had the following comment: “Thank you for sharing this. ‘My husband’ and I have just read this together and found it to reveal new insights that we hadn’t considered before.”

In writing this post, I was reminded of two things: First, we have special biblical insight that most of the world has never heard. Second, God has called us to take this insight, known as the “everlasting gospel,” to every corner of our planet. Sometimes we do this through carefully written 550-word articles, meticulously planned sermons, or a series of one-on-one Bible studies. But other times God calls us to share truth through the lens of our personal faith using less-formal methods: a conversation at work, going door to door with a GLOW tract, and yes, even on Facebook.

* To read the whole post, look me up on Facebook.

Jimmy Phillips is executive director of marketing for Adventist Health Bakersfield.