One of the great paradoxes of our society is that we are deeply involved in “social media” — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like — yet, we are less connected to one other.
I have 699 “friends” on Facebook (I don’t Twitter or Insta). I put “friends” in quotes because the vast majority are barely acquaintances. Perhaps 20% are people I actually know, have a real relationship with, and would look forward to spending time with.
Yet, I find that we have less and less of a sense of community anywhere in our lives. Perhaps we have substituted a superficial relationship with myriad people for meaningful relationships with a few. “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler showed how this trend was well established in the 70’s, even before social media. His book was the beginning of the concept of “high tech, high touch,” which argues that the more technologically enabled we are (high tech), the more we will need real human relationships (high touch), or there will be disastrous consequences for us as a society as we splinter and become individualized to the point of isolationist.
Toffler has turned out to be prophetic. Even things like the way political campaigns are run make clear that we have moved away from a sense of community to being simply competing individuals. These ads are created and run with seemingly no consideration of the impact they have on us as a society. It is all about one individual defeating another.
At the societal level, the trend may seem insurmountable and irreversible. But the church should be a haven of difference. Here should be modeled a life of community — a life where we are consistently engaged with one another in service to Christ, where we know and love one another, where we genuinely bear one another’s burdens.
In the lesson from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus (click here to read it), Paul reminds the Ephesians that “we are members one of another.” In fact, the statement that “we are members one of another” serves as the opening bookend for a list of suggestions about how we relate to one another and keep those relationships healthy. Then, he sums it up with another bookend, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
Imagine the character of St. John’s if we lived as though we are e truly members one of another, and if our relationships were consistently marked by kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness! That’s not to say that we are a mean congregation, but that we all have our moments!
Let’s strive for church to be a place of community. Not because we’re all easy to get along with but because God has placed us in community, and we truly are members one of another, even if we don’t always live like it.
This column appeared in the August 12, 2018 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.