Me and my mobile
Would you give up your mobile phone for a million pounds? According to a survey by the Carphone Warehouse and the London School of Economics, one in three of us would not!
Mobile phones are fast becoming indispensable and Britons send a billion text messages every week.
The survey also found that:
• 76% of people believe it is a social requirement to have a mobile phone.
• 85% feel that having a mobile phone is vital to their quality of life.
• Most young adults consider mobile phones a critical social lifeline for feeling part of a friendship group.
• Most 16-24 year olds would rather give up alcohol, chocolate, sex, tea or
coffee than live without their mobile phone
for a month.
In an additional experiment, twenty-four people were deprived of their mobile phones for a week to see how they would react. The result? Some felt lost, isolated and frustrated whereas others felt free from life’s pressures. If you get a new mobile phone this Christmas, congratulations! But take care lest a means of communication becomes your master rather than your servant!
A sense of identity
It’s not just our phones that bind us to this digital age. The hugely popular social networking websites such as Facebook, Bebo and Youtube also allow us to promote ourselves to the world.
So why do we find this new technology so captivating? What does our yearning for constant contact and communication say about us?
Perhaps we are afraid to be on our own. It’s not just our phone or broadband, it’s ourselves who feel a need to be connected. To be plugged into networks that assure us of our place in the world gives us a sense of our own identity.
But does it really establish who and what we are? How often do we stop to think about our identity – where we came from, where we are going, and what it all means? When life becomes one long conversation,
an endless communication between us and our social networks, it can actually hide the deeper reality that exists outside this social world.
In other words, we shall not find out who we are by interacting endlessly with others who are equally lost. We need to look elsewhere – and Christmas gives us the opportunity to do so.
Who are we?
You may not believe, of course, that Jesus of Nazareth – whose birth we celebrate at Christmas – was God in human flesh. But just for the moment let’s assume that this is true and see where it leads and what it means for our personal identity.
Firstly, it means that we have at least something in common with God – otherwise it would make no more sense for God to become a man than for you to become a Christmas cracker! The Bible claims that we are made in the image of God.
We are not a meaningless accident of evolution but the offspring of a Creator who has made us like himself – moral and spiritual beings with a purpose and a destiny. Isn’t this something we feel in our hearts?
Secondly, it means that in Jesus Christ we have a pattern for human behaviour. If he really was God incarnate, then his must be the ideal life for which we all should strive. What kind of life is that? If you have never read the four Gospels in the New Testament, why not do so now – and find out what a perfect human life looks like?
Thirdly, however, it demonstrates that our own lives are by contrast highly imperfect. It is uncomfortable to be set alongside Jesus as a measure of how good or bad we are. We may look good when we compare ourselves with others in our network world but our imperfection becomes painfully obvious when we stand alongside Christ.
The problem of sin
‘Nobody’s perfect’, we reply, and this is all too true. But the problem of man’s moral imperfection (or sin) goes deeper. It is rooted in rebellion against God – we simply do not want God to control our lives.
Eight hundred years before Christ came, the prophet Isaiah wrote: ‘All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way’. Here, then, is a further identification of men and women – we are all sinners in the sight of God.
But Isaiah continues, ‘And the Lord has laid on him [Christ] the iniquity of us all’ (Isaiah 53:6). Consider the implications of this remarkable statement.
Our Creator holds each one of us responsible for our sin or ‘iniquity’. Not only that, but God’s righteousness demands that sin must be punished – it must be ‘laid upon’ those who transgress his moral laws. But instead of punishing rebel sinners, God has imposed their punishment on someone else!
The Bible teaches that Jesus came not only to show us what perfect humanity looks like but also to suffer the penalty due for the sins of imperfect people – ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).
Identified as children of God
The conclusion? ‘By one offering [his death on the cross] he has perfected for ever those who are sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14). And who are ‘sanctified’ (the word means ‘set apart’)? Those he has chosen and redeemed for his own glory – who have received the gospel and have believed in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their Lord.
Here, then, is the ultimate identification – ‘as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:12-13).
Yes, our identity does depend upon communication, but primarily with God rather than with other people. The greatest identity we can ever know is that of a child of God – redeemed from sin, in touch with God, adopted by heaven and destined for eternal happiness.