The Medium is the Message

According to Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message.”  Have you ever heard this saying? Have you ever wondered what it meant? What is a medium? Moreover, what in the world does this have to do with the Bible?

First, what is a medium? Per Webster’s dictionary , a medium is a means of effecting or conveying something.

What does it mean that the medium is the message? Well to be honest when I first heard this saying I thought it was about how the medium determines how the message is communicated. If we look at water as the message and a balloon as the medium water takes the shape of the balloon. Water is not a balloon but it takes the shape of the balloon so in the same way the method (medium) of communication determines the how the message is delivered. Now I am not saying this is not true because to a large extent that is true the medium determines how the message is communicated, however, that is not nearly as important as the fact that the medium itself is the message.

Each medium communicates a very specific message and not only that but the medium shapes the way you view and interact with the world. Most people have a primary medium they prefer and that medium has rules, standards, points of view, and more importantly functions. The medium you choose will influence your other choices in life. Notice I said influence and not control because while some might suggest that your medium dominates your decisions I am not willing to go that far. I know you might still be wondering what this has to do with the Bible but track with me for a moment.

I do not intend to debate the merits of various electronic mediums except to point out a few things. If we look at a medium like texting we see that the message is, or at least could be, get your point across as quickly as possible. Full sentences are not needed and are somewhat prohibitive in this. The point of a text message is not to get across a full idea but the essence of what you want to say. You would not say “I think that is a good idea we should probably do that” but “k.” The problem is that the messages communicated through this medium are often taken wrong or out of context. The message of this medium is not to understand complex thoughts but to quickly communicate. A problem that we have is people have mistaken the message to be “here is an effective way to communicate our thoughts” but that is not the message. We have mistaken the message and in doing so misapplied the use of the medium. Texting is not meant for in-depth communicate but for short messaging hence the name SMS (short message service).

Another medium is the TV. The TV is by far a much larger medium and much more influential than texting but it still has a message. Yes, the TV delivers many individual messages but the TV has an overarching message as a medium. What is that message? I am going with relax and be entertained. I think there is also a possibility that the message is to stop thinking or at a minimum think less and think without context (that is without reference). But that is a little combative so I will just work off the entertainment hypothesis. If the message is to be entertained then we have to make sure, like texting, we understand that. Yes, there are programs not specifically designed to entertain but they will still have an entertainment factor in order to compete for your viewership.

So again, the question that must be asked is what does this have to do with the Bible? The Bible says in Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the exact or express image of the invisible God. It also says that He is the image of God in Colossians 1:7, that He is the Word of God in John 1:1. It is important to know that the medium is the message because Jesus is the medium of the Father. Jesus conveys something from the Father. When we understand that we can look to see what the message is and the message is clear. God loves you, God desires a relationship with you, and God desires you. The message in the person of Christ is you are wanted and loved. You are forgiven. Jesus says for God so loved the world that he gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him would have eternal life and that is a powerful message.

Now if mediums not only have a message but shape how you view and interact with the world then how does the message of Jesus as the Father’s medium affect and shape your interactions with the world? First off to be clear it should. It should drastically shape your world view. Everything you do should be Christocentric meaning that it has Christ at the center. The way you treat your family should be Christ-centered.  The way you treat strangers should be Christ-centered. The way you think should be Christ-centered. Everything should be Christ-centered because you are centered in Christ. As a Christian, you not only have a relationship with Jesus but you are in Him and He is in you. But the questions was not how should it affect you but how does it affect you? You are the only one who can answer that question.

If it is true that the medium is the message, then the fact that Jesus is the medium of God is huge. There is no greater message that can be delivered. It is important to not misapply the message that is Jesus as many have done. Jesus as the medium and the message is paramount in understanding God. If you want to know God better then it comes through knowing Christ.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

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