Have you ever heard of a “selfie stick?”
This past Christmas I was surprised with the gift of one, and a favorite one at that.
For the uninformed, a “selfie” is a rather new word that refers to taking a self-portrait, usually with one’s phone.
Some take pictures of themselves by standing in front of a mirror, which in my opinion is quite strange since the camera is now part of the portrait.
The other method – my preferred technique – is to extend the arm holding the camera and click the picture.
Many would agree that the longer the arm, according to the rules of perspective, the better the portrait.
With a selfie stick, you can take the camera out another couple of feet and actually take a pretty decent selfie that does not look like a selfie.
Now that every other person on the globe has a phone with a camera, the world is awash in selfies. Perhaps we are a nation of narcissists.
Or maybe because of technology, we feel the need to document everything – and include a self-portrait in the picture.
Or perhaps we are just lonely and it is nice to see a familiar face at a ball game or at a concert or eating a Tex-Mex combo platter.
I decided to take my selfie stick to church. I thought it would be kind of cool to snap a selfie with all of my “peeps” beneath or near the steeple.
Am I sounding hip? Probably not. I am holding out for the grizzled-haggard look to become hip, but I digress.
Church can fall into the cultural quagmire of selfishness, too. Small groups, Sunday school classes and ministries can look like “selfies” that are familiar, yet lonely.
Long ago, disciples hid behind locked doors out of fear, but Jesus not only found his way in, but also, in turn, opened the doors wide – “No more selfies! Get out there and love the neighbor, the stranger and the outsider like I taught you!” That is my translation of Matthew 28:19.
In this life, God created us not to live as walking “selfies,” but to live in vibrant community.
While the phrase, “Covenant of God,” sounds heavy with legalism, it really is a generous invitation to save us from ourselves so that we can live more fully with one another.
Life together is not a closed community of insiders against the outsiders, but a porous way of living, relating, serving and advocating.
A cursory reading of the Bible reminds us that God is particularly concerned about neighbors, outsiders and strangers.
One of the most memorable stories Jesus told followed an exchange over the commandments.
Nowadays, we either recoil at the thought of debating law or we settle back in polite boredom.
Jesus has a way of transforming commandments into purposeful living. He taught that to love God and love one’s neighbor were the two most important commandments and then tells the story of “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37).
The story ends with a surprise resolution of the outsider doing good to the one most in need, to which Jesus asks, “Which of these … was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
The answer is obvious. “The one who showed him mercy” (Luke 10:36-37).
The commissioning is obvious, too. Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
God has commissioned us on a mission of mercy with your family, with your colleagues and with complete strangers.
This means that our “selfies” should be filled with neighbors and acts of generosity.
Greg DeLoach is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in August, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Pilgrim’s Walk, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @GregDeLoach.
Interim Dean at McAfee School of Theology of Mercer University and Director of Development at McAfee School of Theology and College of Professional Advancement.