In 2009, Twitter came up with an ingenious idea. It decided to start hyperlinking words that appeared after what most people called a pound sign at the time. This is when the hashtag was born—at least from a social media perspective. This new system was used to track trending topics worldwide. It was a great way for users to see what other users were talking about. Apparently, some folks got a hold of the system without completely understanding it. So they started hashtagging everything. It didn’t matter if was trending or not. They hashtagged complete sentences. They hashtagged closing anecdotes. And they pushed those hashtags to another platform you might have heard about—Facebook—which wasn’t using the system at the time. Eventually Facebook came around and started using its own hashtag system and the new kid on the block—Instagram—took it to a whole ‘nother level. From fitness buffs to foodies, multiple hashtags are encouraged and, to some degree, expected on Instagram.
I’m worried though. I’m worried about the meaning of #Jesus in the Christian space. I’m not just talking about the pound sign followed by the word. I’m talking about the symbolic hashtag. The original purpose of the hashtag was to hit topics that were trending. I’m afraid that there are some Christians out there who treat their faith the same way. It’s trendy. It’s cool. It’s now. But it’s not life-changing. I think there are four ways why living the #Jesus life is dangerous.
1. You Don’t Die For Trends
You just don’t. Ask the leaders of small bands of rambunctious followers before Jesus came on the scene. He wasn’t the first to threaten Roman authority. There were guys who trended before Jesus. But once they left and the new car smell wore off, their movement was just that—a trend.
There was something different about Jesus, though. Sure his followers were fearful days after his death. But a little over a month later, they started preaching the gospel. They would go on to impact the world. And many of them died for it. And we all know that you don’t die for trends.
We don’t have very many martyrs in Western culture today. But I wonder how much we’re willing to die—to ourselves. I wonder if our refusal to die to self tells us that we’re actually more interested in the trendy Jesus than the one who bids us to come a die.
2. Trends Last Until Something Else Comes Up
Today, we call these kind of trend-followers bandwagon fans. I imagine this is how former Lakers fans felt this year as they cheered for the real tenants of Staples Center—the Clippers (sorry, had to get that one in there). When something else comes up, it’s on to the next trend. That’s why my closet is full of gadgets. That’s why I have a Playstation 2 laying around in my place somewhere. Something else came up.
We aren’t too different in our approach to faith, are we? In fact, we use the same language. I was gonna go to church this Sunday, but something else came up. I was gonna finish that Bible reading plan, but something else came up. I always have to check myself on this one. What if Jesus told me something else came up? I was gonna to protect you from that accident you didn’t see coming, but something else came up? But he doesn’t, does he? The more we reflect on and acknowledge the fact that we have a faithful God, we’ll have fewer “something else came up moments”.
3. Trends Are Memorialized, Not Internalized
Why do you think all those nostalgic posts on Mashable and other content sites are popular? How else could you explain ourselves scrolling through images of He-Man figurines and My Little Ponies? We love to memorialize. We love remembering when. But we click away from those pages, barely retaining those fleeting memories. Entertained for a moment, but never internalizing the impact of those items.
I’m afraid that if we aren’t careful, we can do the same with our faith. We memorialize special services or conferences we attend. We post thoughts on the conference on our blog or live blog at the event, but risk not internalizing the true object of our affection—Jesus Christ.
I’ve done this. In the past, I’ve tweeted my tail off at conferences, but never told how the message resonated with me personally. I never relayed the sense of urgency it gave me to pursue Christ with everything I’ve got. Don’t get me wrong, I love conferences (I’m speaking at a few this summer). I just want to make sure I’m consistently checking my heart to ensure that I’m not just memorializing my experience with my Savior at these events, but internalizing it.
4. Trends Are Heavily Influenced By Culture
Culture matters. We’ve heard it. People preach it and fight over it. How does the church properly engage culture without assimilated by culture? I think the church is going to constantly wrestle with that question. I think it’s a healthy tension to have. Trends are culture-driven. That’s why kids stand in long lines for the new J’s. That’s why the Air Yeezy’s sold so well—and the price on those things, man.
Again, those same Yeezy’s will find their way into a dark, dingy basement many years from now. And we’ll walk downstairs, blow the dust off them and remember the day we stood in line to buy them and outfits we wore them with. But we’ll also realize they are too worn to wear.
Too worn to wear. I pray we don’t ever say the same about our faith. Faith in Christ is a living faith. It’s active. It’s powerful. To reduce it to a hastag—at least practically—is a disservice to our God.
So please, stop hashtagging the one person who is way more than a trend. He’s Alpha. Omega. He holds all things together. Wrap your mind around that truth. It’s not a truth we can limit to 140 characters. It takes a lifetime—and a lifestyle indicative of change—to do it.