Rev. Dr. Nelson: The virtual world versus the real world

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 24, 2020

Rev. David Nelson

By the Rev. Dr. David P. Nelson
For the Salisbury Post

The environment we are presently forced to live in can well be described as “the virtual world.” Because of the need for “social distancing” as the one proven practice to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, everything seems to be defined, determined, and detailed by this new reality. The intensity of our digital surroundings has us looking to our Facebook accounts, Twitter pronouncements, computer declarations, and questionable authenticity.

Our plasticized cards are supposed to tell us the truth about how much we owe and when it needs to be paid. Mastery of our touch screens keep us in contact with each other and our world around us in this new age. But in order to keep up, we need to use our cards, smartphones, fast computers and advanced devices. We have become slaves to our new technology.

The one thing we would do well to remember is our passwords or codes so that access to our info is safe and accurate. Our cards need to be at the ready to insert, swipe or scan. It’s all so simple unless you feel intimidated by it all. Maybe my age makes me vulnerable to that reality. At the same time, I can only win by insightful learning and practice.

A modern-day hazard we all face today is that we have a preponderance of cards we carry. Of course, we could have everything funneled through our smartphone and no longer need our plastic “passports.” We just carry our smartphones because it is all there. But that means we almost have to be tethered to that device.

Credit Cards, I.D.s, and license cards are our nemesis. Each of these cards carries its own number that identifies me to the issuer and the receiver. I’m certain that each card is only a digit away from disaster, loss, pilferage or trouble. What’s going to happen to me, and maybe all others, when the cards themselves become who we are?

At times that has already happened. I’m a number, a non-existent entity that is no longer flesh and blood, mind and spirit, living or inanimate but simply a thing. So the big question I must ask, “Who am I anyway?”

Maybe this is the same old question that the thinkers and philosophers of old have asked. The problem of our age is not the digital, electronic, or impersonal definition of who we are. Rather it is the understanding and basis of our revealed faith that we are special creatures of an almighty God. We are his creation that is endowed, blessed, and alive because our creator God made us that way. All of the advances that we have devised, created, or imposed upon ourselves will never have true meaning for any of us apart from the fact that we are created in God’s image.

How blessed and wonderful that reality is. I guess we’ll just have to learn to keep up with all the innovations of our times, confident that they can enhance our existence and meaning but not replace it. They will only take control if we allow them to do so. See them in our present age as tools to enhance our created humanity and not take over our God or his purposes.

In this coronavirus world, we can not allow it to define who we are but simply define what it is. It is evangelistic in its mission, but it offers no peace, hope, grace or salvation. Anything that attempts to rob us of our God-given identity is contrary to God’s will. That is what we know as sin. Thank God, sin has no power over us because of God’s grace, love, and salvation through Jesus Christ.

So in this digital, electronic and senseless world we are not without hope. We are safe and confident that God will see us through. He will enable us to overcome this enemy. It was Isaac Watts who penned the powerful words that reassure us that “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, is our eternal home.” Our future may be different, but it is still in our creator’s hands.

The Rev. Dr. David P. Nelson is a retired Lutheran pastor.

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