Beware of Loosing Touch
As Christians, brothers and sisters, we are not called to temperaments of anger or mentalities of vengeance. We are in a time of great unrest where the stress of our world is causing deep fissures within our closest of relationships, families, and houses of faith. Our local and national communities are exhausting themselves on the battlegrounds of injustice and the greatest casualties are our children. At the expense of peace, we wage war in parking lots, in grocery aisles, in parent/teacher meetings, in church Sunday School classrooms, all in the fruitless effort that our side, our opinion, wins.
We now live in a post-Christian culture, where Christianity is no longer the undertone to schedules. It used to be that the pharmacist, the doctor, the car salesman, the elementary principle, the insurance agent, the mom and the dad, all came to church on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s to network and share in their faith. Sunday’s and Wednesday’s were understood as times for the church, and the church was THE place where community was found.
Though many still see the faith community as a pivotal place for connection, which I believe it is, our society as a whole is finding community elsewhere. Online communities, for better and for worse, have impacted how we connect with our neighbors and how we socialize. We can find church services online to live stream, we can listen to our favorite pastor’s podcasts, and we can read sermons or Twitter posts that encourage our faith. We can even communicate with others who share the same faith as we do or connect with those who are different from ourselves. But we have lost the human touch; the authentic, one-on-one sharing of our humanity.
Studies are indicating that depression and stress levels of Americans are at an all time high. Our ability to disconnect has left us weary and our spirits dry. We read, share, even post about the politics, injustice, and hate that create the giant hairball we are trying to orbit. More and more people are excusing themselves from public activities for the much more enticing activity of staying at home in one’s comfy pants and tuning out the world. I for one am guilty of finding great pleasure in tuning out. But…there is a cost.
It is easy to disregard a person, a people, an issue, when we do not know the face, the name, the struggle. There are many reasons Jesus emphasized the importance of a real and tangible community. One of which is the value of knowing the other. It is hard to have hate in one’s heart for someone when we get to know them. Knowing a person creates a sense of compassion. We are not called to agree or understand every facet of our neighbor. We are however called to love them; the stranger, the neighbor, the enemy. Being a part of an offline community creates a space for mutual sharing, for face-to-face dialogue, for accountability and support. And frankly, it’s a lot harder to scream words of intolerance in someone’s face when you look with the eyes of Christ at their humanity. And I mean really look.
Christianity is not what it had been in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. That was a unique time and place in the grand history of Christianity. Our faith is not dying, nor is the Church. Our hope should not be in ourselves to sustain either, but in God. What is the most condemning of our faith is when we boast to be followers of Christ yet we act in ways that are not Christ-like. It is in our forgetting of who we are and Who’s we are that we have caused fractions, that we cheer for divisions, that we support us vs. them mentality.
In 1762, John Wesley wrote in “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”:
“Beware of schism…that inward disunion, the members ceasing to have a reciprocal love one for another, is the very root of all contention and every outward separation….Do not allow yourself one thought of separating from your brothers and sisters, whether their opinions agree with yours or not. Do not dream that anyone sins in not believing you, in not taking your word; or that this or that opinion is essential to the work, and both must stand or fall together. Beware of any impatience of contradiction. Do not condemn or think harshly of those who cannot see just as you see, or who judge it their duty to contradict you, whether in a great thing or a small. I fear some of us have thought harshly of others merely because they contradicted what we affirmed.”
Brothers and sisters, as you seek to continue to grow in your faith and in the ways of Christian Perfection, be aware of how you live out what you have been called to. Do not seek to create schism amongst yourselves. Do not seek to do harm for the sake of being right, because you may just be wrong. Do not lessen your effectiveness for the ministry of God by being disobedient to the greatest commandment:
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22:37-40, MSG
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Tiffany A. Nagel Monroe
July 28th, 2017