From Screens to Relationship
In a 2016 report from Apple, the tech company reported that the average iPhone user unlocked his or her phone approximately eighty times per day. One can only imagine how that number has only increased over the last five years as more people have come to own smartphones, and more time has been spent on them especially during the pandemic. While electronic tools like our iPhones or Android phones have enhanced our lives in many ways, they have also subtracted from them as well. Whereas we used to drive by the bus stop in the morning to see youth conversing with one another, now we see each youth’s eyes glued to a phone. In reference to the iPhone statistic mentioned above, Christian writer Arlene Pellicane wonders how life would be different if, for all the times we reach to unlock our phones, we instead reached out to our spouse to interact with him or her.1 Can you say that you have pursued your husband or wife even just eight times a day, let alone eighty times a day? Can you say that you have reached out to a friend or family member more than just a couple of times per week?
Why is it that we have become so comfortable reaching out to our devices instead of people? Our devices can do just about everything but wash the car. On them, we can make dinner reservations, pay our bills, check on the game, read our emails, listen to music, watch TV, and this is just touching the tip of the iceberg. With all these distractions, it’s no wonder we reach out to our phones instead of people. Our pocket-sized computers are an endless source of entertainment. There is also the truth that relationships sometimes require work. They aren’t always easy. Differences of opinions must be talked about. Feelings need to be shared. Time needs to be spent paying attention to and listening to the other person. This can be tiring. It can be risky. Sharing feelings risks someone getting hurt. Pulling out our phones seems so much easier, so much safer. While our devices aren’t inherently evil, they often take the place of something that is more difficult but that is far more important and life-giving: relationships.
Rather than encourage us to live separate lives, Scripture implores us to move closer to one another in our thoughts and feelings. The phrase “One another” occurs at least 90 times in the New Testament.2 The command to love one another occurs at least 16 times3 and is accompanied by other commands such as these: be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), honor one another (Romans 12:16), admonish one another (Romans 15:14), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), teach one another (Colossians 3:13), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), pray for one another (James 5:16), confess your faults to one another (James 5:16). And the list goes on. The early church serves as an example of the way we ought to be prioritizing relationships in our lives. After approximately three thousand people joined the church on the day of Pentecost, the ranks of new believers didn’t just go about their business but rather they committed to being together, growing in faith together, spending time together: “All believers were together and had everything in common…every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts” (Acts 2:46).
“But relationships are hard!” you say. God no doubt knows that, and Scripture encourages us not to give up on them despite this: “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). “If you are offering your gift on the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). “Do not let the sun go down on youranger” (Ephesians 4:26). All these Scriptures point out the importance of persevering in our relationships.
“But what for?” After all, our phones require much less effort and are guaranteed to make us smile for at least a little while. The answer is that we should pursue relationships because God has commanded us to, and also because like all of God’s commands, there is great reward in keeping them (Psalm 19:11). Sure we can find relief in the devices that entertain us, but what happens when life gets tough? We need friends, we need our spouse, we need our church family, and we need God who binds us together and gives us the words and the heart to help one another. We need relationship. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, “Two are better than one…if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” We need each other. We can find comfort and joy in many things, but God describes an even greater joy that flows out of good relationships, ones that we have fought hard to maintain and restore. God’s word says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) You can have the finest food on the table, the best phones in the hand, the nicest house on the block, but if that home is devoid of love and relationship, it will always be missing something.
This week, instead of swiping to unlock your phone, reach out to your spouse. Reach out to a friend or neighbor. Ask them about their day. Build relationship. Work through the challenges. And be encouraged because in doing this, you are doing the work God calls you to do, and in doing it there is great reward.
Pastors Garritt and Sanette
1 “Taking Back Your Home from the Phone,” Family Life Today, July 12, 2021: https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/taking-back-your-home-from -the-phone/.
3 “The ‘One Another’ Passages,”https://www.mmlearn.org/hubfs/docs/ OneAnotherPassages.pdf.