At the time of writing this article near the end of 2016, Facebook has 1.71 billion monthly users. That’s a lot of potential friends! But unfortunately, not all interaction on Facebook is friendly, especially in this election cycle in the U.S. In fact, many people have pulled themselves back from using Facebook, because of all of the angry exchanges that seem to permeate their newsfeeds. Reading all the angry comments can really wear out the softer-hearted people (and I think most of us, at the core, have soft hearts).
Truth is, there are a lot of jerks on Facebook! Yet these Facebook jerks generally seem to be nice enough people if you meet them off the internet. I have to say that it would be fair to say that I have been a Facebook jerk, and so I’m not coming from the perspective of being an angel telling transgressors how to repent, but from the perspective of someone who has not behaved well, but is learning all the time how do better.
I never set out to be a jerk, it just happened. I think the main problem for me is that I was new to expressing ideas in what is essentially a public venue in which multiple people can jump in, and so I didn’t have a clear idea how to have boundaries and rules that kept me safe from saying things in ways that were not wise, resulting in angry exchanges, not just by me but by teams of people going back and forth yelling at each other in writing.
Just this past week, I was praying by myself for a friend who is a missionary. And I was about to launch into a prayer for his influence on the nation for the sake of the Kingdom of God when my mind flashed to the story of Jesus rebuking Peter with such strong language, saying “‘Get behind me, Satan!'” (Matthew 16:23, ESV). Jesus said this in response to Peter telling Jesus that he should not be thinking that he (Jesus) was going to be killed, even though Jesus just told them he was. And when this thought flashed into my mind, I was instantly aware of what the Holy Spirit was saying to me: “Don’t assume that what appears to be a great success by human standards – even by standards the Church would say is successful – is what God’s will is.”
When I heard that, I realized that I was doing what I often do: rushing into prayer, asking of God things that seem right, but not necessarily for things that line up with what He wants. So in response to this message, I change directions and asked God how He wanted me to pray for my friend, and what He wanted to do in and through my friend. When I sensed His answer, I was able to go forward and pray more of what I perceived to be God’s will, rather than what I had previously assumed that God wanted.
Jesus explained to Peter after the strong rebuke that the reason he was being rebuked was that, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23, ESV). And while the Son of God being killed certainly seemed to all Godly people of the day like it was a devastating loss, they soon saw God’s richer plan in Jesus’s death on the cross, followed by His resurrection. Where would be be today without that happening? What appeared to be a great failure was the most unexpected and marvelous success!
The Church – the collection of all faithful followers of Jesus – is pledged in marriage to the very Son of God, and one day, perhaps very soon, we will experience the fulfillment of that promise (see Revelation 21). But since it is a promise, is there anything for us to do while we are waiting?
A normal bride would be busy planning the wedding, to be sure. But in addition to all of the details of sending invitations, choosing colors, and selecting venues, she would be doing her best to make herself beautiful for her husband to be (and all those witnessing her at the wedding). It’s not uncommon for a bride to go on a diet, spend time at the gym, try to find just the right hairstyle, find a person skilled to help her with her makeup, and of course be sure to have the perfect dress, along with shoes and jewelry to complete the look.
How can the church make Herself beautiful? I think that Isaiah 62 gives us some ideas. In an extended metaphor, the prophet is speaking from God’s perspective about Jerusalem. But what is Jerusalem in this metaphor? We see in Revelation 21 that the new Jerusalem represents the Church. And in Isaiah 62, especially verses 4 and 5, we see Jerusalem being promised as a bride to God. We can therefore use this passage in Isaiah to help us understand what the Lord wants to happen leading up to the great wedding.