Some of you may be aware of the term “selfie.” A selfie is a picture taken of yourself, by yourself. Selfies have risen in popularity due to social media outlets, like Facebook and Instagram and more than 93 million selfies are taken each day. There is nothing inherently wrong with the selfie, but there can be a problem growing underneath the selfie phenomenon. Many of us are too concerned with ourselves, and I think the “selfie identity” helps to fuel this problem. Some of us talk more about ourselves and spend countless time focusing on our wants while neglecting the needs of others. These issues I bring up are not new by any stretch of the imagination, but they are fueled by the “selfie identity.” That may not make sense to some of you, but I hope it will soon.
In Matthew 16 we have the story where Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is and the very first person to say anything is Peter when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus says after this perfect response, “Blessed are you, Peter! You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (paraphrase added).
Peter must have felt like he was on top of the world when Jesus said these things about him. It didn’t last long, however, because Jesus tells his disciples something that leads Peter to putting his foot in his mouth. It was no surprise that Jesus was going to suffer and eventually die for our sins. Jesus knew it—his disciples knew it—and anyone with common knowledge of the Old Testament knew this would happen to the Messiah, though they resisted believing the idea. After Jesus tells his disciples what will happen to him, Peter takes him aside, rebukes him, and says, “Far be it from you Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). In their culture, a master and disciple relationship centered on the master teaching the disciple what he knew so that it could be passed on and that disciple would make disciples and the process would continue on so long as the master had something to teach. This master-disciple relationship is what Jesus had with his disciples, so it would have been audacious for Peter to correct Jesus, let alone rebuke him. Jesus responds by turning around, so he wasn’t even facing Peter when he was being wrongfully corrected, and when he turns, he says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23).
Peter goes from on top of the world to lower than low in a very short time, but put yourself in Peter’s shoes. He got to walk around for three years with the Messiah and then Jesus tells you that in a few weeks, he’s going to be killed. I’m sure his mind was full of similar thoughts that would cloud our minds: “My whole life is about to change—I thought Jesus was going to rule the world—I thought Jesus was going to put an end to Roman rule—What about me?—What am I going to do?”
Peter, much like all of us, can’t see past his present situation to comprehend what is going to happen in the future. The selfishness in our current situation hinders God’s plan for our future and the future of others because we’re so focused on ourselves. I want to share two things that can help us with our “selfie identity.”
We need to stop being a stumbling block to others. We can do this with our words, actions, and even what we post on social media. What we do as followers of Jesus has a huge impact on the people around us. Everything you post on social media says something about what you believe and how strong those beliefs are. Everything we do as followers of Jesus is being looked at under a microscope, so the next time you post, share, like, retweet, think about how that makes others view you and how they view you as a follower of Jesus. I guarantee if I shared some of the things I see on social media, you wouldn’t be seeing another article from me. You and I are both the same in that regard—we follow Christ and as such, we should look at every aspect of our lives and have them echo his glory to this dark world.
We also need to start thinking about God’s story. Peter got so wrapped up in his present situation that he couldn’t see the future God has planned through Jesus. Peter couldn’t see what we see now—and that’s Jesus being victorious over death and taking on our sins. God’s story should be the compass that guides us wherever we go.
Is there something in your life that’s become a stumbling block for you and God’s story? I think most of us are like lower-than-low Peter more than we would like to admit. Whatever that stumbling block is, move it out of the way so that you can focus on God’s story and what he wants to do in and through you. This may mean you have to sacrifice something, but what are you willing to sacrifice so that God’s story can be knowing in your life and in the life of those around you?
1 Corinthians 10:24 / Philippians 2:5 / Matthew 16:13-23