Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Justifying ourselves

Posted on 17 Jun 2014 in Culture, Leadership | 4 comments

As an executive she was smart, practical, and successful. As a mother, she was caring, loving, and kind. As an entrepreneur she was energetic and passionate. She was also a social media addict.

She had called into a radio show to ask about the necessity of checking email and social media while on vacation. “Isn’t it okay if I can just quickly sneak it in while we are in the car driving someplace?”

The caller after her voiced a similar concern. He mentioned that it was just too hard to go on vacation and not check email. He found that he was more stressed if he didn’t check it than if he did, so he wanted some affirmation that it was okay to keep doing it.Phone addiction

After thinking about it for awhile, I realized why I was so amazed by these two callers. Behind their questions, even behind their desires to be doing the right thing, was a need for them to justify something that deep down they knew was wrong. You could almost hear in their questions the pain of their families voices that longed to spend significant time with them, to connect with them, to play with them, to even just for a moment be seen as more important than email.

And yet they couldn’t pull themselves away. They wanted to feel justified in their importance and worldly worth.

And then I think of the time that Jesus told a story to the lawyer who wanted to justify himself.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have. Luke 10

Ashamed, Luke tells us that the lawyer saw who the neighbor was [the despised Samaritan] and that his need for self-justification and just been denied. Jesus wouldn’t affirm that desire.


We’ve made it a priority in our own lives to often seek after that self justification. The need to check email, even on our days off. The need to keep building our social media statistics, the need to have more followers, more influence, and more popularity. The need to show the world that we are right in what we do.

And somewhere along the way we’ve lost what it means to be justified in Christ.

We’ve traded our status and security in Christ with the possibility of going viral.

It’s time to regain our focus.

3 ways to regain a centered life in Christ

  1. Reclaim the Art of Sabbath. I actually don’t like working with people that can’t take time off. If you refuse to find consistent time away because work is too important, I can almost always guarantee you that others find you negative, judgmental, tired, angry, and gossipy. God has intentionally given us time every week to remind ourselves, “I am not defined by what I can make or do or produce, but by who I am in Christ.” There are many that miss this and then wonder why they struggle spiritually. It is important for us to regain the art of our Sabbath, intentional time to find rest, comfort, and solace in Christ.
  2. Plan intentional downtime. Something that we all struggle with is that need to unplug and recharge while away. Early on in the blogging world it was hard for me to justify not posting something. “But I’m trying to build readers!” And yet, I’ve noticed that after ‘working vacations’ I’ve never once come come recharged and refreshed like I had hoped. We need to be intentional about our time away. I see it modeled in both the Jewish calendar and the life of Jesus. We see that Jesus is purposeful and passionate, but never hurried. He would relax, refresh, and recharge on a consistent basis. It’s something I’ve come to call ‘Holy wasted time’, a time where our only goal is to, for an extended period of time, relax, refresh, recharge, and rebuild key relationships.
  3. Find a hobby that gives you life. I can’t stress this one enough, especially for leaders, church staff, and ministry volunteers. Ministry is hard. It’s time consuming and draining. That’s why it is especially important to have a regular time for you to do something that gives you life, and preferably that shouldn’t involve electronics. Go hiking, camping, fishing, get outdoors. Put a puzzle together, build something, go fly model airplanes. I’m not so much concerned with what it is that we do, just that we do it. If you don’t have time to invest in yourself, I’m fairly convinced that you don’t have time to invest in others in any meaningful way.


What about you? Are you intentionally building these things into your schedule? Are you finding ways to unplug and find security in Christ? How do you regularly unplug? Please Enter the Discussion below.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

Latest posts by Justin Hiebert (see all)

  • Don Morris

    Justin – you’ve raised an important topic. I find it maddening to be sitting with someone at lunch and they have to periodically look at their phone. I can understand if they say up front they are waiting on an important message, but just to check seems rude. I think it might be good to have ongoing dialogue in our circles of influence about this issue. Media is taking over our lives in a lot of ways, including with family time, husband-wife connections, work relationships and for many youth, just about every aspect of their daily life and communication.
    I think a lot of people don’t even think about social media etiquette. We shouldn’t be afraid to start educating.
    One thing you pointed out is that this constant use of media has taken us away from our connection with Jesus as well. People are exchanging time with Him to look at Twitter or their email. I know I have to be careful, or I get caught in this trap as well.
    At what point does this become an issue for the church to seriously address, including sermons, writings, bulletin announcements (please DO NOT read Facebook when I’m preaching!!!) 😉
    You’ve provided some good, solid alternatives and cautions. I think this would be a good Christian Leader article.

    • Don,

      Thanks for adding your thoughts. For fun, here’s an idea that was passed on to me and our incessant need to look at our phones: Make everyone place their phones face down on the center of the table. The first one to look at their phone has to pay the bill. My wife and I have adapted this around our home to ‘doing the dishes’ we’ve found that we not only get more face time while eating, but then get to do the dishes together (if one of us doesn’t look) and it’s another way to not only lessen the load of work by splitting it, but create more time together.

      Sermons and church is another thing to dialogue about, and a much trickier subject in my mind. I remember preaching this last year, and when fantasy football started and someone scored points I could see a group of men all lean in and fist bump each other: a bad use of social media and internet in the church.

      I know some pastors that have utilized social media for things like #AskPastorJustin to submit live questions during the sermon (either via Facebook or Twitter). This is perhaps a middle ground to social media, and one that needs to be decided on by each church.

      I’ve also seen great uses of social media, platforms like Logos and The Bible App allow people to follow along in real time and even have access to the pastors notes, announcements, and community service opportunities.

      Like most things, social media is neither good or bad, but it is how we use it that makes the difference. I think it’s an excellent topic to talk about in churches, leaderships, and groups. Definitely a worthy discussion.

      And if you decide to use the ‘check your phone, pay the bill’ idea, I’d love to know how it works. I’ve tried it a few times and so far people have resisted the temptation, leaving everyone to only pay their portion. But I’d love to see it work on a larger scale with what you do.

    • And I also think you’re absolutely right about the need to educate with social media etiquette. A much neglected area of leadership development in my mind.

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