rebelling against low expectations

Teens And Texting: Where Are Your Conversations Driving You?

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It’s just a phone number. I smiled as I slipped his phone back to him. “There. Text me,” I said. His smirk assured me that he would. I turned and walked out of the cafeteria. High school would bore me without guy-friends, I thought.

It’s just a text. Sure enough, he texted me. I responded to him, of course. That’s just what teenagers do. Girls text guys, guys text girls. And boy, did I text. Not just him, but tens of others: from the varsity soccer team to the coworker at the frozen yogurt shop to the ones who came from Christian families, quoted Bible verses, and asked, “Will you be at youth group tonight?”

It’s just a conversation. We talked about a lot of things. I learned tons of fascinating stuff from them. Two dings, screen aglow, blue light flooding into the room: “My dogs named Pluto. Hes a great dane. Really big dog.”

It’s just innocent fun. That’s what I thought, at least. My then-friend, now-husband shook me from my digital stupor. For years, I masked my carelessness with the word meaningless. I see now that every text I sent bore more than just my name and number.

Whatever You Text

Consider Colossians 3:17. Paul says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (emphasis added). Paul does not say, “Pray with your family, quote the Bible, and go to youth group in the name of the Lord Jesus. You know — all the overtly Christian things. Do these for Jesus’s sake.” When Paul says “everything,” he means it.

This includes texting. Teenager, do you text “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17)? Your name pops up on others’ phones when they receive your messages. If you call yourself a Christian, Jesus’s name appears, too.Your name pops up on others’ phones when they receive your messages. If you call yourself a Christian, Jesus’s name appears, too. Click To Tweet

Honor of honors, wonder of wonders! We bear his name because he bore our sins (2 Corinthians 5:15). In him we have become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, no matter our age or job experience, we labor to see this “ministry of reconciliation” spread to all peoples (2 Corinthians 5:18). We are all “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Our Best Thoughts Are Prayers

At your age, I fear I donned the title ambassador solely for the privileges it wrought. How shiny its virtual cloak! My social media glimmered. Like-bio’d followers abounded. Many were my churched contacts. What I didn’t see — what I pray you see — is that before an ambassador represents, an ambassador ascribes. I didn’t use my phone like Christ governed my life.

It’s not that sin littered my words and emojis, like gum beneath desks. It’s not that ungodliness fueled my choices in memes and gifs, like Gatorade a football team. Rather, I texted like a nonbeliever when I tossed thousands of precious hours into a technological trashcan. I never stopped to pray:

  • Father, should I even text right now? I don’t want to waste the time you’ve given me. My life is “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Often, texts feel a bit like mist. Even so, you say that there is “a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). This may or may not be the right time to text. Help me to discern the best use of my time (Ephesians 5:16).
  • Father, should I even text this particular person? I don’t want to text just anyone, for you warn me that “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). It’s easy to think my phone keeps me at a safe distance from ungodly influences. Reveal my foolishness to me.
  • Father, should I even text about this topic? I know that what flows from my fingers “proceeds from the heart” (Matthew 15:18). Though I love you, my heart continues to cache sin. And so what I say is not automatically “good for building up” (Ephesians 4:29). Make me sensitive to corrupt texting from all sides.
  • Father, if I am to text, how might you use me? Your Son gave me a new life (Ephesians 2:5). If my heart beats because of Christ alone, then my fingers will type to exalt him alone. I long to hear “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). I text that more tongues might call upon Jesus Christ, my Lord, to the glory of you, my Father. Please — use my phone to your praise.

In middle and high school, I didn’t pray these prayers. I didn’t ask these questions. I don’t want you to make the same mistake. Don’t think to yourself, “It’s just texting. What’s the big deal?” Instead, with Bible stretched before you, direct your questions to him in prayer.

The God Who Sees

More often than we fixate on our phones, may we all meditate on this glorious, frightening truth: God sees us. He knows a text before it is on our fingers. No message does God miss. His eyes, they run “to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chronicles 16:9). They won’t skip our phones.

And one day, we’ll all stand before those eyes and “give account for every careless word” that we spoke (Matthew 12:36). We can be sure that our texts will matter in that account.

The God Who Sends

Though the thought sobers, God warns us in order to motivate us — that we might use the good gift of texting properly. Throughout history, God has handed Christians various communication tools for one all-consuming purpose: “that in everything [Christ] might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18).

Likely, Christ’s cause would suffer if its soldiers reverted to dusty weapons. We can’t fax the unreached. But mobile phones, contact cards, and texting — they rise in use. For this reason, texts are not just texts. They’re opportunities to fix our eyes on Jesus and type, “Friend, look likewise to him!”We can’t fax the unreached. But mobile phones, contact cards, and texting — they rise in use. For this reason, texts are not just texts. They’re opportunities to fix our eyes on Jesus and type, “Friend, look likewise to him!” Click To Tweet

Of course, we must watch our texts. Equally so, we must wield them. We Christians send texts because God sent us (Matthew 28:19–20).


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About the author

Tanner Swanson

teaches fourth grade and blogs regularly at TannerKay.org. She has worked for Desiring God, Heartwork, and Save the Storks in various writerly capacities. She and her husband, TJ, live in Denver, Colorado.

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