Many of my readers will know what a selfie is. You may even carry an apparatus in your car or bag designed to help you capture that perfect selfie; the selfie stick. But how does the current selfie culture intersect with the culture of Christ - who says to deny your self(ie)?
Before you begin to close off your heart and mind to what I'm going to say, hear me out (even if you don't know what selfie is, you should keep reading too). In a culture where beauty and youth are increasingly glorified, in fact almost deified, as Christians we must keep an eternal perspective about our lives here on earth and gain a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:10-12). We must also fight to be aware of the cultural soup we swim in and I find that (especially for younger people like millennials) there is very little helping them to be aware that what is culturally common (and thus overlooked and taken for granted) is leading them away from biblical discipleship. Discipleship of Jesus will always be counter-cultural because Jesus' kingdom is fundamentally not a kingdom of this world (Jn 18:36).
Now don't get me wrong, of course there is nothing fundamentally wrong with taking a selfie (in fact the term has become so common that it is used to mean any picture taken in a certain fashion: holding the phone or camera yourself and taking the picture). While a "selfie" could be used to take a picture of a group of people (often an easy way to commemorate a memory of being together), here I am considering the term a bit more strictly; a picture of one's self - alone.
Although narcissism is culturally acceptable and in many ways encouraged, especially in the western world, in the kingdom of Christ we are to daily die to ourselves (Mat 16; Mrk 8; Lk 9; Jn 12). And while tragically there are many people who die every year across the globe searching for the perfect selfie picture (one website even says that more people die from taking selfies than from shark attacks), as well as links to selfies and Body Dysmorphic Disorder, I don't think this is what Christ had in mind when he called his followers to die to themselves and carry their crosses daily. Ask yourself what is the first impression when you land on a strangers Facebook profile for instance and the first thing you see is that the last 9 pictures they have posted have all been the duckfaced-makeup drenched-selfie? Or perhaps it's the bathroom-sixpackab-muscle-selfie? Honestly, what is your first impression? What about when you find out that this person is supposed to be a disciple of Christ?
Perhaps for some of my readers the concept of lent may seem like some stuffy liturgical religious observance devoid of any meaning or true worship, or perhaps it conjures up less than desirable memories of past family life, yet I believe the concept of lent can be one that is quite helpful in our spiritual lives (like many other spiritual disciplines). If you have never partaken in lent, I want to encourage you to pray and seek God by using the lent season for your spiritual advantage by helping you to focus upon Christ, his kingdom, his resurrection, and his ultimate return.
I would like to call my readers to a challenge; take a look at your social media profile(s) and look at the pictures you have posted in the last 30 days, how many of them are selfies (of yourself alone)? Ask yourself, what was my motive for taking and posting that picture for the world to see? Was it to glorify God (Col 3:23-24; 1 Pet 2:12) or was it in some way to glorify myself?
I often encourage people who are contemplating following Christ (Lk 14:25-33), or those that already are, to scrub all of their social media profiles to make sure that when someone looks at their profile, it obviously represents Christ and glorifies Him (Lk 9:26; Rom 1:16), instead of glorifying themselves, perhaps in an attempt to grab 15 minutes of fame through the recognition, likes, follows, and hollow pursuit of man's approval (Lk 12:4-5). Even if you are of a generation where social media platforms, much less selfies, are not something that you are interested in and it is easy to turn your nose up at, I would challenge you in the opposite direction. Social media platforms house billions of people (if Facebook were a nation, it would be the largest on the planet by far) and I would assert the question; are you willing to deny yourself to meet these people where they are for the sake of the gospel and the chance to win some (1 Cr 9:19-23)? If you are not willing to entertain creating a social media profile in order to glorify Christ and bring his message and kingdom to bare, then ask yourself, do you still have a missional heart and attitude to spread the gospel (Mat 28:18-20), or have you closed off your heart to some place God's Spirit could be leading you?
In the spirit of lent (the giving up of some luxury for the sake of drawing near to God and living in ultimate dependance upon Him), challenge yourself to not take, nor post, any selfie of yourself for 40 days (the entire lent season, celebrating the end of lent on easter Sunday). If this is especially difficult for you to even consider as a Christian, then I would point you to honestly examine your heart and ask God to help you to repent of any selfish idolatry in your heart.