I live a very public life. I post on three social media networks regularly (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). I share what I am thinking, what daily life looks like for someone loving Jesus in another country, stories of people that I meet, stories of what God is speaking to my own heart.
I grew up in a family of nine with two wonderful parents and six siblings. Our lives were always shared together. We shared meals, stories, cleaning, Saturdays and most of the days in-between. For all of my life, I have been used to sharing our time and our stories with others. There are many joys to a very public life. My friends are scattered around the world, and thanks to social media, I am able to stay connected with incredible amounts of people. I am thankful for that. Often, the comments and stories shared are beautiful ones, and they champion and encourage the work of God. I am thankful for those.
I have been reading the Gospel of Luke and came across the story of the man with the withered hand in chapter six:
“On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, "Come and stand here." And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?" And after looking around at them all he said to him, "Stretch out your hand." And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus” (Luke 6:6-11).
If anyone lived a very public life, it was Jesus.
His life and work was known to all, and while the next passage of Scripture speaks of His withdrawal to the mountains for prayer, much of His life was lived with and for people. In the midst of the story above, this sentence startles me, “…That they might find a reason to accuse Him.”
Recently, I have witnessed the direct, pointed, public, harsh attacks of three Christians or Christian groups. All three were done by other Christian groups. It almost seemed, from what I can see, that they were looking for a reason to accuse each other. Personal “fights” became public. As I watched them unfold, I began to miss the point of the story. I forgot about the healing and the Savior at the center of these lives, and instead, I was just distracted by discussions.
As life becomes increasingly public, in a world where not only our neighbors, but also our friends in another time zone can witness our choices and comments, I believe there are several guidelines to a Christ-like, public life. These come from my personal observations and prayers for myself:
1. A public life can be a prideful life.
We read our Bibles. We pray. We speak of the love of Jesus with others. Sharing these parts of our lives should be natural and beautiful. Yet, there is a natural, immediate danger to publicizing our spirituality. A whole market of Christian memes and videos and hashtags are dedicated to the gentle mockery of Christian kids, who create photo shoots to showcase their spiritual efforts. If I am sharing about my spiritual life, Jesus must always be the hero of the story.
2. A public life invites commentary and reaction.
Engaging with these responses with grace and wisdom is a beautiful challenge. For most of my writing, I have been spared from harsh critiques. I still remember one post, which prompted some difficult, public reactions. One of my dear friends, who had only just given his life to Christ, wrote me and said, “Why are your Christian friends being so mean to you?”
3. A public life requires accountability.
If our successes are public, our failures must be too. If our wisdom is public, there will be times when our foolishness must also be public. I have a whole host of leaders who keep me accountable. Some are family members. Six are pastoral leaders. Others are dear, lifelong friends. When these speak into my life, I commit to listen and pray for the wisdom they share.
Jesus, in a very public life, reacted with grace and power in every situation. I am not Jesus. He’s my hero and my very best friend. I want to see more of His life and power lived out in our world. But sometimes, I am the muttering Pharisee or the withered and helpless. As I live a public life, sometimes it is simply the picture of the one who stretches out her hand to Jesus and sees her life restored, again and again.