Out of the Heart
Before going to university, my daughter was encouraged to become Facebook friends with the students that she was going to be living with. As she looked at their profiles and the photos that they had posted, she became convinced that they were all beautiful enough to become models.
They were an attractive cohort, but naturally they had posted the best photographs of themselves and projected a relentlessly positive image. Nobody's life is like that. On social media we present ourselves as we wish to be and how we want others to see us. It is not our reality.
Social Media is a distorted lens
We often wear a mask to hide who we really are.
Most of us see the disconnect between the online world and the physical one. Companies and charities need to market themselves. Have you ever been stung by an online scam or arrived to find the hotel that you booked doesn't exist? Many of us have! It is quite easy to present a business or a project in a way which is false.
There are so many words and images out there.
How can we tell what is genuine? Who can we trust?
Jesus gives us two ways.
We can judge a tree by its fruit. If the fruit is good, the tree is good. If the fruit is bad, then so is the tree. Jesus told the Pharisees,
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Matthew 12 v 33-35
Waiting for fruit to grow takes patience, which is not a characteristic of our age. We want instant answers and resent spending unproductive time just waiting, but if we really want to know a person's heart, we need to allow the fruit of their lives to grow and ripen.
We had several apple trees in our garden, when I was a child, but only one was an eating apple tree. The rest of the apples were for cooking, but when the trees were in blossom, you couldn't tell the difference. Even when the trees were laden with fruit, I couldn't tell which was which. It was only when the apples were ripe and I bit into them, that I knew. Some tasted sweet and some sour.
Apparently, we judge people in less than a second of meeting them, fixing our first impressions. Many interviewers decide about a candidate within the first five minutes of meeting them. We need to reserve judgement and give people time.
Jesus also said we would be judged by our careless words.
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time - Abraham Lincoln
We carefully plan our presentations, which show us in the best possible light. But when our guards are down, what we actually think, slips out. It's in these unscripted moments we discover the heart of a person, for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12 v 36-37
Empty words which can also be translated as idle or careless words.
In the Kingdom of Heaven it is not enough to look good, to clean up the outside of our lives and pretend that we are perfect. We need to be thoroughly washed, to be transformed, from the inside out. Because goodness and purity comes from the heart. The Pharisees were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men's bones. It is what comes out of the heart that defiles us. ( Matthew 23 v 27, Mark 7 v 14- 23)
Again we see how different following Jesus is to following the world.
Jesus is not interested in the image we project, but our hearts.
However I'm not sure that this helps us online. We can't see what the fruit of a person's life is and all the words that we read are carefully scripted.