This column will be part confession, part challenge. In 1 Corinthians 6.12 we read “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NASB) Different translations render that phrase as “dominated” (ESV), or ‘brought under its control’ (HCSB, KJV). Principles of biblical interpretation say to view this passage in the context of sexual relations, but Paul also talks about appetites in general (v. 13), unholy unions with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6.14) and expands it in a general statement on spiritual warfare to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10.5). Okay, that’s simple enough. Nothing but Christ should be in charge of my life; hence the word ‘Lord’, one who has the first and last word in what I am, what I do, where I go, and what/Who regulates my life.
But there is this small rectangular object in my pocket that spews out endless useful information, keeps my day ordered, and wakes me up. It helps me buy and sell whatever whenever, teaches me how to mount kayak wall hangers or play new guitar chords (it even tunes my guitar), and books flights or rental cars. It conveys my thoughts to anyone else with a similar device at all hours, stores and plays 100’s of my CD’s, does all of my mathematical computations, allows me to see my son halfway around the world in a foreign country in real time, is a portable library, shares my daily Bible verses (written or audio), shines light in dark corners, records my life in photos/videos and shares it instantly with others, has more computing power than the Apollo onboard computers, and, oh, I almost forgot . . . it makes phone calls. Yes, a smartphone. It has insidiously interwoven its functions with my everyday life at a level unimaginable only ten years ago. It has become (now the confession part):
Communicator-in-Chief---Rolodexes, phone directories, maps, Bible translations, telephones, video screens, radio, writing paper, books, magazines: I don’t have to carry them, they all fit in my hand. Recently I stood in my bathroom texting a person in Singapore about a person in London with whom I was simultaneously on Facebook. I usually exchange texts/emails with pastors before I eat breakfast.
Companion-in-Chief---it is often the first and the last thing I see during the course of a day. If I’m in the office, out and about, walking, or at home, it is the one constant entity with direct eye contact with me. Wilson, Tom Hanks’ volleyball “friend” in Castaway, has nothing on my cell phone.
Commander-in-Chief---sometimes I feel like the phone has gone from servant to master (hence the verses above) and from a liberator (its mobility) to a leash. It blurs lines between private and public, work and relaxation, and often replaces reflection with reaction and concentration with distraction. Every invention or discovery of man from fire to the printing press and advanced weaponry to automobiles can be used for evil or good. How then should I handle this thing that can allow me to send encouragement to a loved one yet also be used to remotely detonate car bombs? It allows me to access or participate in so much, but how much am I actually impacting?
People had great ministries, marriages, friendships, and families for centuries before smart-phones; this portal to the world in my hand can enhance or hinder all that is truly important to me. I need to know what God, not Google says about this. Lord? Wait a minute, Lord, incoming text; a guy is calling, no, two are calling at the same time; someone sent a book recommendation, became FB buddies; can I get back to you on this, Lord? Wait, I’ll schedule you in my digital calendar . . . as soon as I read this article, look at these photos, listen to a new tune, watch this movie trailer, read the newspaper, check the weather before leaving, check my email, check in with the office, check my investments, check my heart rate, check my . . . (my battery died) Lord, you still there?