Think of the Internet as a neighborhood. Instagram is the gigantic house across the street that looks like it’s probably the greatest home ever built. Every time you leave your house you look at that perfect picture across the street and feel a little worse about yourself. If only you had a house like that. But what you don’t know is that on the inside of that house, there’s no furniture, no food, and a family that struggles to live paycheck to paycheck.
Facebook is a few houses down. That house used to be something. Now it’s just kind of creepy. The guy who lives there has telescopes and cameras all over his property and you’re pretty sure he knows what you ate for breakfast this morning. Also, he likes to tell people to get off his lawn.
Twitter is the house down at the end of the street that your parents tell you to avoid. Tons of people live in that house and they’re always fighting with each other. Despite the warnings of your parents, you spend a lot of time at the house. You always leave feeling worse than you did when you came in but you never can figure out why.
I have greatly reduced the amount of time that I spend on social media. Twitter is a big reason why. More specifically, Christian Twitter is a big reason why.
There’s a Christian author whom I greatly respect. And then there’s the Christian pastor from whom I’ve learned so much. They both hate each other. Of course, they would never say that. They don’t have to. Twitter says it for them. The author has some pretty strong opinions on, let’s just say for example, the gentrification of Brooklyn. The pastor does too. The author’s opinions are rooted in personal experience and facts. The pastor just has strong opinions. Both are rude to each other. Neither, despite their large following and impressive credentials, looks a lot like Jesus. Sure, they claim to be contending for the faith but in reality, they’re just trying to get the last word and earn the ever-important mic drop. And, to quote the great Christian songwriter, “All heaven just weeps.”
Whether they realize it or not (I really hope that they do not), both are leading divisive movements of followers who become more entrenched in the talking points of their side and more suspicious of the other side. Accusations are thrown around. Words like racist, Marxist, black, and white, are digital hand grenades used to help one side gain a temporary advantage until the other side launches a counter attack.
For the most part, this war is over social justice. Skirmishes break out daily on 280-character battlefields where complex issues that highly intelligent people once spent years grappling with are now reduced to emojis from people who saw a documentary one time.
While the issues argued over by Christians on social media are complex, what is often referred to as social justice is not. Generally speaking, when I was growing up, caring for the poor was for the liberals. We conservatives were the ones devoted to the truth. If you were John 9’s blind beggar at that time and someone from the left walked by, you were likely to be given a bowl of soup and told to find your “higher self.” If some conservatives were to walk by, they might hand you a tract and have a nice conversation about you at the buffet.
But when we look to Jesus, we see how he addressed both the physical and the spiritual needs of others. He healed that blind man. Twice. First of his physical blindness (John 9:6-7) and, most importantly, of his spiritual blindness (John 9:35-38). Meanwhile, the disciples and the religious leaders had a debate (John 9:1-2, 8-34). Think of it as first century Twitter.
As Christians, our primary call is to love God and love our neighbor. Loving God means that we are devoted to him and his truth. Loving neighbor means that we bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things both with the brother or sister on Twitter who thinks differently than we do and the blind beggars of our day.
But this type of love goes even further. It cannot be something that we merely talk about or even preach on. We have to put it into practice. Jesus was clear that everyone is your neighbor (Luke 10:25-42). But if we can’t love our brothers and sisters online, how are we to love our neighbors down the street or across the world? If we can’t love our fellow Christians online, how can we claim to love God (1 John 4:20-21)? At the practical level, true Christian love means more than what is usually expressed when people talk about love.
It means that we will come to grips with the fact that some things are just too complex for us to understand at the time and that it’s probably best if we stay quiet about them until we’ve done a little more research.
It means that once we have done the research, we’ll present our findings in as loving a way as possible. Yes, you can disagree and still love. And yes, you can have the right information and still be wrong.
It means that we will constantly be on the lookout for our own blindspots. That is, we will be humble enough to recognize that our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree might have a point of view from which we can learn. That of course requires more listening and less mic dropping.
It means that we won’t be so quick to use terms like cultural Marxism or racist. Most people who have weaponized these terms could easily apply them to themselves if they would only take the time to self-reflect. Many people who ramble on and on about cultural Marxism are themselves subscribing to their own version of Marxism. If you don’t believe me, watch how they react when they are presented with even the idea of losing some government entitlement. The same is true of those who claim to care about racial equality but really only want to settle scores.
It means that there are some conversations that we will just need to step away from. We don’t have to have a voice on every controversy. But we will never step away from the truth or the needs of those whom God has put in our path.
And it means that we will recognize that we have more in common with our brother or sister in the faith from another country, with different skin color, and a different point of view than we do the non-believers from our own tribe. The common link in the body of Christ is Christ. If our common link is our politics or our views on the gentrification of Brooklyn, it is not the church that we have. At best, we just have a political action committee. At worst, it’s a cult. Jesus didn’t die for a cult or a political action committee. He died for his church that is made up of many people from many different backgrounds and that finds its center in the One True God. It was Jesus, not President Trump or President Obama, who died for us. Believe what you want about either president, just don’t place your hope and identity in them. That’s what Jesus is for.
Christians, our house is supposed to be different. Jesus didn’t call us to look good on the outside while ignoring the real problems on the inside. And we shouldn’t be known as the angry, “Get off my lawn!” house. And we most certainly don’t accurately represent the body of Christ to a watching world when we constantly fight with one another.
Our house should be the one in the neighborhood that is far from perfect but where a very diverse group of people are gathered together with a common love and devotion to the One who is the Builder, the Architect, and the Head. If we truly belong in that house, we will love, even through disagreements.
Otherwise, we’re just trespassing.
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9 ESV