Pic­tures, or it didn’t hap­pen

South Florida Times - - PRAYERFUL LIVING - By Jonathan McReynolds can be reached at lif­e­r­oomtalk.com.

JONATHAN MCREYNOLDS

There was a time when only Hol­ly­wood ac­tors, fa­mous mu­si­cians, pop­u­lar ath­letes and politi­cians had to deal with it. They were the only ones that had to ex­pe­ri­ence the hot lights and the pa­parazzi. They were the only peo­ple that had to be ex­tra care­ful with their words, in­cred­i­bly con­cerned with their im­age and their au­di­ence. They were the only peo­ple that had to deal with the stress of pub­lic con­sump­tion and pub­lic distri­bu­tion. And they of­ten died quickly be­cause of it.

That time has passed though and now every­body glo­ries in their own lights and cam­eras Ev­ery­one is cal­cu­lated in their words, their "sets" and their im­ages. Now ev­ery­one de­sires pub­lic con­sump­tion and distri­bu­tion. Seems like ev­ery­one, not driven by the NBA, or Hol­ly­wood, or a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, has driven THEM­SELVES into the spot­light--their own spot­light. We make our own movies, ru­mors, and cam­paigns now.We now dis­trib­ute a piece of us, whether we truly have some­thing to of­fer, to the masses ev­ery time we get a chance. No longer con­tent with fam­ily and friends know­ing our name, good peo­ple around the world are pre­oc­cu­pied with fram­ing their good­ness just right for a pub­lic min­istry to which we called our­selves.

I watched a Buz­zFeed video of a man and his son as the man be­gan to "pub­licly em­power" his dis­cour­aged son to be dif­fer­ent and proud of his unique­ness. It's heart­warm­ing un­til you think, "wait, why on earth would you, when your son opens up to you about his school yard trou­bles, do you sit him down and put a cam­era in front of his face be­fore you guys can talk it out?!" The lit­tle guy obliges and is now telling the world about a pri­vate in­se­cu­rity, so he and his dad can be­come tem­po­rary in­ter­net stars. Now I'm not judg­ing the guy. He seems like a great fa­ther. But it just seemed odd that even par­ent­ing is not a pri­vate, sin­gle minded oc­cu­pa­tion any­more. Par­ent­ing is now part of some peo­ple's "brand" and we will will­ingly sub­ject our own kids to scru­tiny and cel­e­bra­tion from mil­lions of folks who ul­ti­mately shouldn't mat­ter.

As much as I in­hale and ex­hale this cul­ture, both spec­tat­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in it, I am just a lit­tle con­cerned about the mo­ti­va­tion and the ef­fect of our ex­ces­sive self­pro­mo­tion. The mo­ti­va­tion is easy. We all want to be praised. Some deep folks would say that we all de­sire to be wor­shipped like God. That's a lot, but we def­i­nitely want “likes.” We want val­i­da­tion. We want cel­e­bra­tion. Our birth­days now last for a week and we throw par­ties for feats less prof­itable than the cost of the party.

This need for, and ex­pec­ta­tion of, at­ten­tion, fame and vi­ral­ity is clearly toxic. Our cul­ture bases worth on ap­plause. This is par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic for the Chris­tian for two rea­sons: (1) our per­spec­tive, our be­liefs are not con­sis­tent with the world at large. The gospel--the tough, beau­ti­ful, Je­sus-cen­tered truth--is be­ing re­placed by "pos­i­tiv­ity," some uni­ver­sal vari­ant of "love" and ever-so-am­bigu­ous "tol­er­ance." All those things are great and nec­es­sary, but if ap­plause is your real pur­suit, those very hu­man­is­tic values will re­place spir­i­tual ones. And re­gard­less of how no­ble our protests are, we know that our hu­man­ity ul­ti­mately con­demns us while our SPIR­I­TU­AL­ITY is all that can save us. (2) In Matthew 6, Je­sus warned not to prac­tice right­eous­ness to be seen by peo­ple. In other words, don't act "all holy and stuff" for likes and shares.

Our gen­er­a­tion has proven that there is a fine line be­tween evan­ge­lism and fan base build­ing, min­istry and brand­ing, pri­vate rev­e­la­tion and pub­lic dec­la­ra­tion. Com­ing from an artist who's pack­ag­ing is only get­ting more in­ten­tional, more pol­ished, and more thought­ful by the minute, it is very im­por­tant we, I, wres­tle with that line EVERY­DAY with hon­esty, hu­mil­ity and fer­vor.

As we move for­ward daily, post by post, we must check our hearts. Not for our au­di­ence's sake but for our own. And make sure that you do some things, MORE things, in se­cret. "Pic­tures or it didn't hap­pen" is a pop cul­ture idea, but we know we have a wit­ness and re­warder in heaven. Your like­less deeds may be the only truly good ones you'll ever do. Re­mem­ber God doesn't look at your hands, God looks at your heart.

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