The Picture Box
Christmas will be here before you know it, and every family has their traditions about which they merrily go. Some people thrive in their timeless tradition of cooking enough food for three Pentecostal potlucks. Others may annually relax around a fire to talk about what’s happened in their lives over the last year. Some merrily sing Christmas carols or old gospel hymns around the upright piano. Our family enjoys board games—probably a little too much. Clue, Dominoes, Risk, you name it; we’ll play it for hours.
We’ll also stroll down memory lane by pulling out the “picture box” overflowing with pictures and videos from our family over the past thirty years. I’m sure your family has a picture box. Most do. It could be a physical box or even a folder on a home computer. For the O’Neil family, the picture box is a storage tote where we keep photos important to our family. At some point I’m going to digitize them because there are some HILARIOUS #TBT photos I could post.
Interestingly enough, there are also quite a few funny pictures that will never make it to Facebook. Why? Not because there is anything sinful or bad in the pictures but because they were taken when we were doing family stuff in the privacy of our home. They’re not for anyone else but our family and very close friends. We’ll spend hours looking at the pictures and laugh until our sides hurt, then we’ll gather the pictures back up and put them in the box only to be pulled out when another appropriate time comes along. Thinking about the picture box helps me to realize an important principle: just because I don’t share some memories online, doesn’t mean those memories are any less important.
As a young person, you have many incredible experiences with your family or best friends. You’ve got photos and videos that were taken in fun, yet private situations. These are photos that mean a lot to you and belong in a very special place. As a child of God who has made important commitments to Him, you must make a conscious effort only to share photos online that reflect what you wear and who you are in public.
You have some incredible beliefs concerning being separated to God. I Peter 2:9 tells you that you’re called out; you’re different; you are royalty. There are special ways God has asked you to represent yourself because He’s made you so special. You don’t just dress and look different when you’re at church; you live it consistently at school, at work, and when the youth group is over at your house. It’s not bad to share fun, clean, public pictures on Facebook, but there is something very right about honoring your covenant with God so highly that some pictures stay in the picture box instead of going online.
Sure, you might be at a guys’ swimming party where Apostolic guys are having fun in a private situation. And if you’ve made enough of a commitment to God to wear pants and a sleeved shirt when playing flag football in public, how much more should your tweets about the swimming party still reflect your commitment to God? It’s awesome that someone in the church might have a private area of a lake where all the girls are going. Count yourself blessed for something so cool! You’ll definitely want to share photos on Facebook of your day in God’s beautiful creation in nature. So how much more should the pictures you publicly
share glorify God and reflect the commitments you’ve made to Him?
There are some things you can joke about in private that are in good, clean fun. In your group, everybody understands the context. But ask yourself, “Will other people understand this video if it’s on Vine?” If they won’t, then keep that video for yourself and your friends, and don’t post it online. You see, God asks us to live at a higher standard than others. It’s not just about whether something is “evil” or not. I Thessalonians 5:22 says to “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (emphasis added). Whoa! That means, even if it might seem like you’re being hypocritical, don’t post it. When you’re at home, you’re in a comfortable place, but don’t let that comfort make it feel like it’s OK to post things you normally wouldn’t do in public.
Your “girls’ night” might have been an awesome night with your best of friends. You probably needed a relaxing and fun night of facials and updates on your friend’s new romantic interests. In an appropriate, private situation, you can take fun photos where you might be wearing pajamas or a shirt that reveals more arm than normal. But if you, as a young Apostolic lady, have made a commitment to God to wear long skirts and modest tops, then save those fun and pure pictures in a private place where you can have the memories forever. Does that mean no Instagram? Not at all! Just be sure the photos online don’t conflict with the commitment your friend has made with God. (And cucumber slices during her facial are fair game.)
So this Christmas, pull out the family photo box, and go back through the picture texts with your best friends. Be thankful for all the awesome times you’ve had this year. And most of all, remember the reason for Christmas is because Christ came to this Earth as a sacrifice for you so you could live a life committed to Him.
Ryan O’Neil is Pastor of Apostolic St. Louis Church and is a Bible Quizzing fanatic. He is married to Rachael, the love of his life, with two little boys: Oliver and Jude.