The post included a graphic of two images. The top image showed no faces, just a group of people around a table, holding hands, with several open Bibles. The caption was “this is the church.” The second caption was “this is just a building” with a photo of a church…building. I get it. I agree. The church is people.
However, I wanted to expand on the graphic and jotted a couple sentences in the comments, something like, “Yes, the church is the people, but let’s remember it’s more than a group of people sitting in a huddle holding hands and facing each other. What we do outside our huddles in our communities matters.” A few minutes later, the person who made the post replied, “Say what you mean.” I was confused and responded with a question mark. Then my portion of the thread was deleted.
I was confused, which was why I posted the question mark. Now I was even more confused because what had I said that was so controversial? I waited and tried to disengage, but with it still on my mind 30 minutes later, I decided to post again.
I’m confused why my comment was deleted. I didn’t think it was controversial. I agreed the church is about people not a building. I simply wanted to add that being the church is not only about the people within the church but the people we serve and reach who are not part of the church as well.
My comment wasn’t deleted this time, but the person still wasn’t happy with me. And I was still confused.
I am still confused.
How did we get this divisive? Why did we get so defensive? What is our filtering and control tendencies on social media and in conversations doing to our faith and to our witness? We are allowing erosion to eat at our faith while we justify why we’re right. It’s as if we find a space to sit in the sand. It’s not our sand or our beach, but we claim our little circle. In fact, we begin to build within our reach. We might even dig a moat to protect our little area. And we have just created an island. We might invite a few people onto our island to visit, but we could also ask them to step off. We can reroute our moat to cut them off. We can delete their comments on social media.
To be fair, it’s important to have healthy boundaries. It’s important not to accept invitations to chronically dysfunctional interactions. But neither can we expect all interactions and relationships to center around our own preferences and comfort. We can’t influence others and personally grow if there aren’t some challenges. We need patience. We need kindness. We need to ask questions and listen and disagree in ways that help us all.
Sometimes the content and process of illustrations collide. The content began with a social media post that differentiated the people of church and the building of church. I wanted to point out the people of the church do not reside in the building or for only themselves. I soon realized my response met resistance with an island.
I am sure I’ve come off with the same resistance at times. Sometimes it’s been because of my own arrogance or ignorance. Sometimes it’s been because of someone else’s misunderstanding or defensiveness. Either way, I have some responsibility to be aware of the dynamics and to be wise enough to either take a breath and a break or re-establish connection. If I’m not willing to do that, I’m not living out what I’m trying to encourage others to do.
Are you willing to be humble and persistent as you engage with others? We need to be intentional with our humility and persistence if we are going to grow together.