I Have Decided to Follow Jesus ... and Tweet


The simplicity and profundity of many of Jesus' compelling moral messages – all under 140 characters – captivated his age and have endured to our age, Parham writes.
Two years after asking rhetorically if Jesus would tweet, I've finally decided to follow Jesus. I've begun to tweet.

In late September 2009, I wrote, "Jesus spoke in tweets before tweets became cool, if by tweets one means short messages."

Looking back at what I wrote, I now wonder why I didn't immediately decide to follow Jesus' example.

After all, Jesus was the master of moral tweets:

●      "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

●      "So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them."

●      "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

●      "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

●      "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

●      "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases."

●      "No one can serve two masters."

●      "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock."

●      "So be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."

●      "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

●      "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and to God the things that are God's."

The list of Jesus' tweets is much longer – of course.

Perhaps I didn't follow Jesus because I had too many "nets in the sea" (too many other obligations). Or I "needed to bury the dead" (too many other priorities). Or I had "too little faith" (surely nothing good can come from Twitter).

The more likely answer is that I had bought into the myth of complexity – our age is the first age that is complex. Technology somehow makes reality so much more complex than at any earlier epoch, so we contend.

Many of us believe that the moral life is so complex that simple answers or directives or explanations are impossible.

Only moral simpletons give simple answers, so we say. A reasoned faith demands tedious tomes of qualification and exceptions and ambiguity, so we think.

The real problem for many moderate to liberal churches is the sin of sloth and the lack of courage. We are afraid to speak directly to issues in the fullness of time.

We prefer to bore listeners after a public consensus has emerged. And at some level, we're too morally indifferent to the world adrift to do the hard work of connecting with straightforward clarity.

The simplicity and profundity of many of Jesus' compelling moral messages – all under 140 characters – captivated his age and have endured to our age.

Granted, Jesus did offer parables that exceeded the 140-character count of Twitter. Jesus did speak at length on some subjects.

When he announced his moral agenda in Luke 4, he used 248 characters. When he taught his disciples to pray, he used almost 300 characters. When he told about the great judgment, recorded in Matthew 25, he used a lot of words. He used even more words in his Sermon on the Mount.

Nonetheless, we would do well to remember that Jesus practiced an economy of vocabulary. That practice merits our emulation.

My tweets will include cultural comments, moral critiques, notes on goodwill Baptists, nods to other goodwill faith members, alerts about EthicsDaily.com events and initiatives, appraisals of religion gone bad, praise for religion that advances justice and seeks the common good.

So, I'm going to follow Jesus through the spiritual discipline of brevity with the technology of Twitter.

Twitter has already told me several times that I'll have to be cleverer with my tweets.

Technologically, that means my tweets have too many characters and that I need to shorten my message. Theologically, that means I need to remember that Jesus spoke directly, with simplicity.

I invite you to follow my tweets. My Twitter name is robertparham1.

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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