A quick scan of social media these days will expose many fractures that exist within our world. Perhaps these cracks and breaks have been around for a while, and we are just now made more aware of them due to the incredible, and perhaps tragic, advances in technology. At our fingertips, we are able to navigate a world of political, religious and philosophical ideologies that would be taboo for most dinner conversations. Yet, they are shared freely now, as we live in a world where we are emboldened by the keyboard. We feel the invincibility of our screen, which gives way to nasty rhetoric, trolling and an abundance of hot takes which play on absolutes and extremes, and ignore the many different areas of gray in our oh-so not black and white world.
Social media today reveals a selfish undercurrent which is very much alive in our world.
The apostle Paul dealt with fractures between the people in the early Christian movement. These communities were trying to reconcile the world they knew with the one which was being revealed to them after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They were wrestling with traditions and laws which had always been. They were encountering people who were different than them as Christ had made way for followers from any background. There were nuances to what was required to follow Christ. There were arguments. There were definitely fractures.
If Facebook had existed at the time, Philippians 2 would have been the mic drop moment for the Apostle Paul. Since Paul did not have that technology, his post came from the medium of an epistle; a letter.
Here are his words:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.
I need to have a push notification with that verse.
Seriously, how much progress could we make in our world if we bought into this line of thinking.
We have an issue in our country right now that isn’t going to fix itself. There are heinous acts of violence. We have children and students who are dying at the hands of evil. We are at the point where this kind of occurrence has been normalized.
Really. I’m not joking. Think about the last mass shooting you heard about. Were you surprised? I wasn’t. It is a travesty that we find ourselves in a culture of casual onlookers of the growing infestation of violence and hate that exists all around us. We look on, yet don’t do anything to address it.
In fact, when the next mass shooting occurs, we will simply repeat the routine:
Argue about Guns.
Throw out ideas that don’t necessarily confront the issue, but fit within our ideologies. These are ideas that are comfortable for us.
This issue is uncomfortable. It should make us uncomfortable. It should make all of us uncomfortable. It shouldn’t make us defensive. It shouldn’t back us into a corner where we feel the need to fight our way out. That is taking a serious problem and making it all about us.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
While this issue ultimately affects us all in different ways, it is not solely about us. This issue is one at the heart of who we are as a country. We have become something that we don’t need to be. We have reached a point where there isn’t an easy fix.
I have read arguments on all sides of this issue, and see truth and reality in most of them. The truth is that our country will have to take a step in the direction of humility. We must look for the areas of validity in others arguments and attempt to find solutions that aren’t simply one sided. We must work together for progress. For us to do this, we must stop trying to win an argument.
I don’t pretend to have an answer to fix our broken world. I try to rely on Christ as my source of wisdom and strength, but also understand that I am called to be an active participant in the care of this world. I am called to be a part of the body of Christ, which serves, cares for and stands up for those who are hurting in our world.
If you are still reading, perhaps you would participate in a challenge with me.
First: Can we admit that something has to be done? The status quo doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked for a while. It won’t suddenly start working. Have you heard the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, it’s broke. It’s time to fix it.
Second: Can we agree that the solution isn’t going to be something easy? We don’t get to just make violence magically disappear from our society. We have to make tough compromises that move us to a better place. Part of this is guns. Part of this is mental health. Part of this is fixing the problem of nastiness on social media and in our world. Part of this is promoting goodness and kindness. The solution will be complex, and will take years to start seeing effects.
Third: Finally, can we agree that we need humble dialogue? We must start having conversations that include intentional listening. Maybe I’m naive to think this can actually occur on social media. If you can’t do that online, perhaps considering only engaging people in person. Meet over an incredible cup of coffee and talk to people who think differently from you. See what you learn; see what points you make that resonate with the other person. Who knows, maybe you will collaborate to make some tangible changes.
Lord Jesus, we pray fervently for the evil & pain that exist in our world. Please give us the strength and courage to actively pursue change and healing. Grant us wisdom. Give us guidance. Grow our humility. If we must suffer and sacrifice to make this world a better place to live, please walk with us on that path, as the One who suffered for each of us.