My kids are reasonably well-behaved when out in public. We get the occasional comment from a friend or stranger kindly acknowledging how polite they are. When this happens, I must make sure they know the truth… Do not be fooled! This is an illusion!
Yes, they’re pretty dang good, but they are NOT perfect. They bicker and fight just like all normal kids. They push each other’s buttons in an attempt to drive each other insane. They say something to the other solely to start a fight. The sibling responds, voices escalate, yelling begins, mom or dad get involved. This whole cycle brings nothing but negativity and distress to our family!
Unfortunately, the whole process sounds an awful lot like how adults behave on social media lately. On occasion, this public exchange of ideas will lead to positive engagement between those with differing views. But that seems pretty rare these days!
I have just started a new online Lifelong Learning course through Wartburg Seminary… “Global Christology.” This is a fancy title for the study of all things Jesus. So far I have read the 8 Introduction pages, so I am pretty much an expert! The very first page of the course book stated that “Christian theology has tried to make sense of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity and the most hotly debated figure of religious history” for a couple thousand years.
As I read this, I asked myself… Is it Jesus we disagree on, OR interpretation of the impact of Jesus limited by our own social context? Jesus – carpenter, man, God, Savior – the most hotly debated figure of religious history… I guess from the beginning the work and words of Jesus created panic and confusion and arguments among Jewish leaders. Countries and cultures on scales both large and small continue to debate: Who was Jesus and what does he mean for the world?
The divisiveness on display today is chilling. We fight with other cultures and religions; Christians fight Christians. Cruel and insensitive attacks consume social media by those quick to focus on our differences instead of clinging to the sameness which draws our Christian faith together. Why? Is it fear?
A goal of this Global Christology course is to learn more about those different from me – socially, culturally, economically – in the context of a shared belief of Jesus. There are real world challenges and complex realities to consider as we seek common ground. Questions will not be resolved in a short 8-week course! So this effort becomes part of our ongoing, life-long journey to amplify our own faith and respect all of humanity.
This is great for those willing to find common ground. But what do we do with those who are like naughty kids, out there to pick a fight for no reason, reveling in the chaos their unkind words will create? When my kids pick fights with one another, we often separate them. How can we do that in a world where people can hide behind a fake name on a website?
We can ignore. Or, if we feel called to respond we do so in a surprising way. We respond with love, grace and respect. Or perhaps with some factual information instead of rumors and biased misconceptions.
The instigator is looking for a response. If there is no response, or perhaps an unexpected response, their planned path of destruction will not take hold. Let’s spend our energy engaging with those willing to understand and respect the perspective of others.
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. 2 Timothy 2:23-25a (ESV)