Tuesday Re-mix –
“He who no longer is listening to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
If I am honest with myself, I must admit that my ability to hear God speak through you is directly related to how much “agreement” you and I have on issues which are important to me. The more we disagree, the less we listen to each other. In turn, the less we listen to each other as Christians, the further we get from experiencing unity. But understand this: it is not disagreement that kills our unity…it is our inability to manage that disagreement.
Anyone involved in a peacemaking ministry to Christians will tell you that doctrinal differences are by far the most difficult differences for Christians to work through. It is one thing to say “In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; and in all things, charity” (a saying often attributed to Augustine), but we Christians cannot even agree on what is essential and what is not. 50 years ago, one’s millenial view was considered by many to be essential. Today, one’s view of inerrancy of scripture is considered by many to be essential. Who knows what the hot-button issue will be for the next generation? And so, how you see certain “litmus test” issues of mine will determine my willingness to hear God speak through you on other matters.
For as long as I have been alive (and surely for much longer than that), peacemakers have struggled to get conflicted parties beyond their points of disagreement in order to agree on some other issues, i.e., in order to find some common ground elsewhere. That, I suppose, is one of the real challenges to the global church today. I am not talking here about some watered-down, ecumenical revolution which leaves everyone with shallow theology, or with no theology at all. I am just talking about an ability to be civil with each other and to actually allow God to use each of us to speak truth into each other’s lives, if not on our matters of disagreement, at least in matters where we can agree. In short, the more I know about you, the more likely I am to find a point of sharp disagreement and to therefore stop listening to you.
So as I continue in my personal exploration of Twitter and other similar social networking vehicles as communication tools among Christians, I am struck by this simple notion, we have now found a way to bridge this dilemma. Twitterers are engaging in meaningful communication with people whom, if they knew more about them, they would never otherwise hear. By its very nature, unless you knew someone outside of twitter, the only thing you know about them is the ideas they are putting forth in short, concise spurts of text. Those ideas, then, must either stand on their own or fall. When you send out a tweet, it is not being interpreted through a biased filter which adds to it all the other information we know about you, because there is no other information other than a user name and a very short (usually not very helpful) profile.
I like that about social media. I think it will be good for the church. It will cause us to hear people we otherwise would not have heard. It will force us to be courteous and listen to ideas without judgment. It is allowing us to connect more with more people. It will not make us more intimate in our relationships (it was never intended to do that). It simply allows for more communication to actually take place…communication which traditional forms of relating have tended to squelch. And where there is more communication, there is more opportunity to hear God speak…and more unity.
As a student of what’s going on in the church, and especially as someone who studies unity in the church wherever I can, I would be very interested to know your take on Twitter and social media as it relates to the church. Does it help preserve unity or not?
© Blake Coffee
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