It seems that a good deal has been written lately about some of the more pervasive effects of social media. In addition to creating an illusion of community (or redefining it, depending on your point of view), allowing us to be in relationship with others without actually having to be in relationship with others, it seems that social media contributes to the polarization of our culture. We only relate to the people we choose. We ignore voices different from ours or with whom we disagree. Thus, we do not learn from each other but retreat to our respective corners.
In other words, it is easy not to hear a contrarian voice. If someone regularly and consistently expresses an opinion, especially political or theological, with which I disagree then I can simply “unfriend” or “unfollow” them. Choose a topic, any topic – race and Confederate memorials, Presidents Trump and Obama, Islam and Christianity, same gender marriage and traditional marriage. If someone believes or articulates an opinion contrary to mine, I no longer must listen to them. Nor them to me. We are no longer “friends.” All of this, of course, results in a political and theological narcissism.
We have redefined friendship and community as associations of like-minded people. And we are naïve if we think that doesn’t have implications for the church. What do churches begin to look like when everyone is like-minded? When everyone experiences God in the same way? When everyone believes that she or he is right and anyone disagreeing is entirely wrong and no longer worthy of relationship? What happens when we agree on this one thing but disagree on the next? How much do I lose if I do not listen to you when your opinion differs from mine? What opportunities for growth do we forfeit?
Jesus, not surprisingly, seems to have an alternative reality. Jesus seems to believe that we should strive for true relationship with one another that seeks to repair any breech. Jesus seems to believe that the burden for that is on the one who has been wronged or offended more even than on the offender. “Go,” Jesus says, “and work it out.”
This Sunday, as we gather in all our splendor of varied opinions, we will hear Jesus speak to us about what his church should look like (Matthew 18:15-20) and how we strive to stay in relationship with one another, even in the midst of fault and failure in those relationships. We will be reminded that we promise to work toward such a community in baptism as we vow to create “a community of love and forgiveness.” We will be reminded that here we do not “unfriend” or “unfollow” one another but we hold one another close and seek one another out. It is an alternative view of community.
I’ll see you Sunday at our community gathering space.
Grace and peace.