God is Watching

Last week, an ESPN reporter was recorded telling off a worker at the company who towed her car. She was very rude to the woman, putting her down and being condescending about her supposed lack of education. Apparently the woman made it clear she was being recorded. The recording was posted online and it resulted in the reporter being suspended from her job for a week.
We live in a different world. I worry for my kids. I think of the dumb things I did as a kid that were not recorded [thankfully!]. Now, if you don’t have a talk with your children about not putting too much information online or about being aware if they are being recorded, you are probably not doing your due diligence as a parent. You never know who will see them and once something is on the internet, it can never be removed.
It struck me how similar this is to the way the church used to warn people that “God is watching you.” That was a real motivator for good behavior for hundreds and hundreds of years. Maybe some of you even heard that from your pastor.
Most churches have thankfully moved away from this notion of God as a divine judge just waiting for the chance to catch us messing up. And the reason we don’t believe God is like that is because you don’t have to watch long to see that we always mess up. As Paul wrote in Romans, we don’t do the things we want to do, and the very things we want to do the most, we can’t seem to get done.
We are stuck. We hurt and disappoint each other all the time because we are sinners. But thankfully God is a forgiving and graceful God. And the very reason he came in the person of Jesus Christ is because we can never get it right. And he IS watching us, but that is in order to forgive us and invite us to try again to love him and love our neighbors—the two great commandments.
So what do we do with the internet? It is always watching us, but it doesn’t care if we mess up. It doesn’t offer us forgiveness. It simply puts behavior out there and because we are “judgy” humans, when we see each other, we make assumptions and judgments.
Now, I don’t mean to say that what that woman did doesn’t deserve to be judged. She was extremely rude. But did I need to see what happened? I really don’t think so. And this is what is so hard about how the internet works.
The internet allows us to forget that we have neighbors. We can treat each other as impersonal—objects to be made fun of. It is terrible that our kids have to worry that the dumb mistakes they make—mistakes that most kids were able to make in without being recorded from the beginning of time—now those mistakes have become so much more costly.
We were able to “correct” in a lot of churches an overly judgmental God, but can we correct an overly judgmental internet?
I suppose the only place to start is in our own hearts. When you do see things online remember: you were not there. You might be seeing something that was edited. You are not getting the whole story, because likely you do not know the people involved. And even if you do, it is still dangerous territory to judge.
When Jesus heard people judging each other, he warned them to take the logs out of their own eyes before pointing out the specks that were in other people’s.
I really don’t think there is any going back so it is probably up to us. We were able to learn God is graceful. Can we act graceful as well? I certainly hope so.

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