Can I be honest with you all for a moment? It is hard to talk in 2020. And this makes it super challenging, because (to some degree) I talk for a living. 🙂
People today have strong opinions about lots of things … but that is nothing new. It’s not like a person having an opinion is anything novel. However, 2020 has a number of contagious conditions that have infected nearly all of us … and these “viruses” ARE novel for our day. What are they?:
Access to unprecedented, unedited amounts of information … that we don’t trust. Think about it. Not that long ago (in my lifetime), there were 10 TV channels, and only a couple of hours of “news” on every day. Sure every town had a newspaper, but it only came out once a day, and focused on local affairs. Today, the internet, cable TV, smartphones, blogs, podcasts, etc. have created a seemingly endless flow of information at our fingertips that is talking about things all over the planet. We are able to dial in to a brand of news or media that perfectly suits our proclivities and distrust all other information that does not fit our narrative. And, that beast is fed every second with more data. Minimized are the network editors who control the narrative, as anyone with an IP address can publish their opinion for the world to see. This has led to an environment where people talk past each other, citing sources the other has not heard of, while dismissing the others’ reports as “fake news.”
Hyper-connection, masked by technology. Social media has allowed people to stay “connected” to more people than ever before. Some scientists have indicated that the average person is capable of effectively keeping in community with only about 120 or so people at a time. Technology has made it possible to have 3,000 “friends” following our activities and opinions on Facebook and Instagram. At first glance, this sounds great … until we realize that people are a lot “meaner” on screens and keyboards than they are face to face. Because of the distance technology allows and the lack of nuance in a lot of written communication, people are way more prone to fight online than in person. Rather than sharing ideas online that lead to great in person conversations, lots of online point/counter point leads to hurt feelings online and avoidance of face to face meetings. Online, people are an idea (or a collection of ideas) … in person they are, (well) a PERSON, someone created in the image of God. Primarily interacting through screens has robbed us of a lot of our “humanity” and decency in interactions. Screens have made our relationships less relational with challenging results.
Echo chambers we live in that have us only hear those who agree with us. Social media giants Facebook and Twitter are not charities … they are businesses. They want to show you what they think you want to see so that you will keep coming back to their site so they can show you advertisements they have sold to the highest bidder. This is the way it works. Social sites have figured out that if they only show you content that makes your blood boil, you will leave one platform and find another … so they develop sophisticated algorithms to show you more content that you agree with, like, etc. This creates a phenomena known as “echo chambers” where you only hear the perspective of people who think like you do. To some degree, this also happens in our everyday lives among our peer groups, but the sheer volume of info shared on social media has taken this to a whole new level. The effect this has on us cannot be undersold. We think we are right because “everyone smart around us thinks like we do.”
I could go on, but you get the point. What this has led to is a world where we are convinced we are right, have “experts” to back it up, and we have a platform to proclaim that perspective to the world. What could go wrong?
Well, plenty … and it even has impacted the church. Christians living in this age are not immune from this effect. Since you are most likely reading this on a social media platform, you are aware of the conflict that is held in the public square between Jesus followers every day.
I am not immune from these kinds of squabbles … and neither are you … and neither is our church.
Threats to church unity, though, are not new. They are as old as the church. Sure, they did not have Twitter back then, but the gossip grapevine still existed, and conflicts occurred. One place where the unity of the church was threatened was the First Church of Philippi. They had their fair share of conflicts and differences of opinion. But Paul writes to them and admonishes them (in an impassioned way) to be unified. He did not call for them to be uniform (he knew differences of opinion would exist) but he did not want them to fight one another … we saw this last Sunday in Philippians 1:27-30.
But in the midst of the divergent opinions that existed in the Philippian church, Paul did NOT tell which opinion was “right.” He did not even tell them that the problem was someone else’s to fix. Instead, he appealed to each and every believer in that church, and invited them to SERVE. ONE. ANOTHER.
Of course Jesus had modeled this lifestyle for them in His earthly ministry, but even more than just giving us an example, Jesus invites us “IN.” If we trust in Him, we are “in Christ,” and we have access to His mind, His mission, and His love.
This Sunday at Wildwood, we will be kicking off a new sermon series called “Attitude of a Servant.” In this 4 part series, we will walk through Philippians 2 and see how we might live in accordance with the mind of Christ as we pursue unity in the faith. This week we will be in one of the most famous (and important) sections of the New Testament (Philippians 2:1-11). We get to see who Jesus really is, and how knowing Jesus changes the way we interact with others. Hope you make plans to be with us at 9, 10:15, or 11:30 (inside and with children, student, college, and adult classes running), outside at 8:00 AM in our chapel service, or online in the stream at 10:15 (wildwoodchurch.org/live).
Let’s gather together, listen to the Word of God together, and resolve to serve one another in our increasingly fractured world. See you Sunday!