By Caleb Keith –
Over the past couple of weeks we have explored together the effects that smart technologies and the age of the internet have had on the human heart and mind. Our daily wants are more driven by entertainment, and our minds wander as the average attention span steadily declines. The age of the internet has also given individuals the chance for their voice to be heard. Whether it is on a blog, YouTube or in the Facebook comments section, people have the freedom to speak their mind like never before.
All of the things listed above come together to create a constantly shifting, fast-paced environment, ruled by an autonomy ethic. This means that on the internet you can say or do whatever you desire so long as it does not inhibit the freedom of somebody else to say or do what they desire. While this is certainly a loose ethical system, it is one that is easily followed whilst browsing online. In many ways it boils down to not bullying other people online. Christians are typically seen as people who push this online ethical boundary. We are known for moral judgment and casting a disapproving “look” upon our online neighbors. Christians are commonly depicted as hypocrites who point out the sins of others without recognizing their own flaws.
In more ways than one, Simul Iustus et Peccator is a perfect message in response to the online world set before us. If you are not familiar with the phrase, it means, “Simultaneously justified and sinner”. This phrase accomplishes two extremely important things for those of us living in the age of the internet. First it opens the hearts and minds of Christians and non-believers alike to the message of the Gospel. Secondly, it sums up the paradox of the Christian life and lays out a framework for how we can best participate in the openness of online discussion.
Simul Iustus et Peccator is the beginning of an incredibly short, yet incredibly powerful Law-Gospel sermon. The first thing we hear is the comfort of the Gospel, that we are “iustus”; that is we are justified before God. Being made right with God we are free from the power of sin, death, and the devil. However, not two words later we are reminded of our nature as “peccator”; that is, we are still sinners. In this we are made to see that we did not accomplish justification for ourselves. In our sinful nature we are incapable of reconciling ourselves to God. The sermon that started with Simul Iustus et Peccator is finished with the central tenant of the Christian faith. We are pointed to see that we are not justified by our ability to remove our own sin, but rather we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is perfectly summed up in Galatians 2:20 which states: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Along with the Gospel message that we receive from Simul Iustus et Peccator, we also get a clear definition of the Christian life. We are declared to be saint and sinner and our reception as Christians in the digital world has a lot to do with how we openly approach this paradox. The typical approach that I observe online is for Christians to elevate their status as saint and to beat back their nature as a sinner, calling upon themselves and others to live a life above reproach. This way of speaking online is exactly what causes Christians to be slandered as hypocrites. The alternate approach is to first acknowledge our nature as sinners, as people who can relate to the non-believing world, and through the love that we have been given as justified people in Christ proclaim the message of the Gospel to everyone around us.
When the Christian life comes from the power of Christ shown to us and freeing us, rather than our own moral upstanding, the world around us is seen as an opportunity to share the love of Christ rather than a moral battlefield upon which our values and morals must rule supreme. In the online world, the phrase Simul Iustus et Peccator shows Christians to be honest sinners saved by Christ rather than angry hypocrites who hate their neighbors. With this power, the online sharing of the Gospel will prosper.