I’ve been thinking lately about information. Since I began using it about six months ago, I have developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with Google Reader. It’s become a great way for me to organize news and follow blogs. That’s the part I love. But if I don’t stay on top of Google Reader, newsfeeds pile up and I begin to drown in unread information that (I fear) may be really important. What if I miss a crucial story? The increased flow of information in our lives—especially as it comes from the Internet—affects us. It threatens us with an overload that hampers our ability to sort what is important and what is not. The format of this information flow also conditions us to read in short bits, and (perhaps?) to think similarly. (For some recent opinions on how this flow of information affects our thinking read here: Is Google making us stupid? Or smarter?)
For now, I’ll let others wrestle with those questions. What I’m most interested in is how this ‘info influx’ shapes my identity. I’m tempted to find my identity in the things that I have read, the information that I know, the posts that I share through Google Reader. I have a tendency to dismiss people who haven’t seen the latest viral video circulating on the web. I often ask leading questions gauging whether people have heard about a certain news story, just to show that I already have.
Of course, this isn’t new. Knowledge has been used to ‘puff up’ or to gain power for centuries. Before the glut of online information, we pastors still placed our identity in knowledge; specifically the knowledgeable books lining our office walls.
As a corrective to information overload, we don’t need to turn off, unplug, or cover our eyes and ears. We need to prioritize knowledge. We need to know a few things deeply and well. The apostle Paul—himself an erudite polymath—offered this personal resolution amidst the swirling information and sophistry of his own day: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
In the end there is something more important than what we’ve gleaned from Google Reader. It’s the simple, timeless truth of Jesus, the God-made-man, who was crucified on our behalf. Jesus came and lived and died so that we might know God and so that God might know us as His. In the end, what’s most important is not what we know, but Who knows us.