I don’t know if you’ve noticed – if you are a social media user – but lately, it seems to me that Facebook has been getting nasty. With an election in Alberta, and a sex education curriculum in Ontario, and the Stanley Cup playoffs (among other things), it seems that everyone has an opinion or two. And social media is a common place to air those opinions.
Sadly, what seems to be happening is that people are using social media as a screen, such that they somehow believe it becomes appropriate not to fight fairly, making pot-shots and sweeping statements that would not ordinarily occur in the course of civil conversation. I think it’s because we don’t have to look each other in the eye on Facebook. (This seems to be less of an issue on Twitter, where the limit of 140 characters seems insufficient to air a rant or rebuttal.)
In life, there will always be areas where disagreement happens. It’s true in families and marriages, in friendships and collegial relationships – even in church. And there must be room for disagreement. That doesn’t negate the reality of absolute truth, of which there is much, but it does require tolerance.
Tolerance, nowadays, has been watered down to mean the acceptance of (and even belief in) everything. But what it really means is to give someone the right to be wrong. The awkward thing about this is that two people who argue, each of whom believes she or he is right, can tolerate the other and believe him or her to be wrong. That’s called agreeing to disagree.
Sometimes, agreeing to disagree is best left tacit – that is, the argument never actually happens. But in social media, that civility has lately been left behind.
So, if Jesus were on Facebook, what would he do? Well, that’s sort of a moot point, because even if the Internet had existed in the first century, Jesus had this thing about personal relationships. My guess is that if Jesus were on Facebook, he would say to everybody, “Let’s get away from this façade and have a personal conversation.”
Of course, that’s hard to do when one is conversing over social media with someone halfway around the world. But that might translate this way: “Have your social media conversations in the same way you would face-to-face conversations.”
Or, as Peter put it: “So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness” (1 Peter 2.1-3, NLT). The great thing is that this is a helpful word even if we are not social media users!