Cell phones are wonderful tools, along with their helpful friends the tablet and e-reader. However even these things which God has seen fit to bless this generation with must be use in a proper way, more specifically a way that honours God. This is important to think through as Christians since we want to be pleasing to God in all of life. Considering how to use things like our cell phones to the glory of God ensures that we enjoy them in the best possible way.
The first principle that may help us lay a foundation for this discussion is to always remember to value people over gadgets. People that are in your life in the moment are more important than pieces of plastic in your hand, even if you say it is connecting you to other people. Think for a moment about relationships, you wouldn’t want to have a relationship with a spouse, or a good friend, or a parent or child that only existed over phone or virtual connection. The reason for that is obvious; these gadgets are limited in their ability to create any kind of intimacy or meaningful communication. There is a difference between seeing someone and then talking with them over the phone or texting them. Personal face time is important. So we read in the epistles about Paul longing to see certain people again (Romans 1:11; 2 Tim 1:4). The way you use a gadgets and the way you allow it to distract your attention from those around you sends a message of the value that you place on them.
Essentially, like all things in creation, use gadgets, don’t let gadgets use you. If you judge smoking because someone is addicted to it, then be careful when you use your gadgets that you don’t show the same kind of obsessive behaviour over them- don’t let your gadgets have mastery over you. 1Timothy 4:5 tells us that the things we can use in creation are consecrated by the Word and prayer, and we are to use them with gratefulness. Have you thought through the use of your cell phone? Do you seek to use it according to the Word?
One last thing before we think through some of this practically, we should appreciate that convenience doesn’t mean necessity. I mean this in a very specific way, just because you can tell someone something in the instant you think about it or feel you need to, doesn’t mean that you must. If you feel someone has wronged you or you feel irritable or anything like that, just because you have the convenience of making it known right away doesn’t mean you need to. One of the problems with the world of instant messaging and status updates is that people are able to say things without having had the right amount of time to cool off and think things through; the slipperiness of the tongue extends to the shockingness of the virtual.
Here are a couple of ideas that I try to use to avoid using the wonderful tools in a way that dishonours God.
If you are in a conversation with someone and you are expecting a call, may a point of saying that you are expecting an important call and may have to take it during the conversation, this shows the person that you are concerned about them and value your time with them. Why should someone else get to interrupt you just because they used a phone? It’s the same as if we were having a conversation and someone came and starting speaking to me and I just turned away from you in mid-sentence to talk to them. This is a Christian issue of love and respect, virtues that should be growing in all believers.
If you get an unexpected call in a conversation, excuse yourself from the conversation and ask if you can take the call if it really is important and cannot wait till you are free.
When texting or updating status on various platforms, and even at times when voice calling, avoid talking about personal issues, without voice tone, facial expression and such things communication can often be misunderstood. Something you mean innocently may sound very different to someone else. A comment in frustration about how horrible your husband just behaved can for example be interpreted very differently by someone who just lost their husband, or someone who is very critical and takes comments to extreme’s sometimes or someone who longs to find a spouse. Along the same lines choose your words carefully in light of these difficulties.
Lastly but not least, think about your Christian testimony in all these things, what will a certain status, a particular comment, a hasty SMS or a call you have not thought through mean for your Christian testimony? A few generations ago people may have bottled stuff up to much, but this generation is often happy to let it all hang out. Always let your gadgets use be seasoned with salt so that it may give grace to those that read it (Col 4:6).