Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. – Jesus
The longer you live and communicate for a living on social media, the more you come to accept a fairly reliable truth: discord sells.
Our minds are bombarded with hundreds of thousands of messages every day, all clamoring for our attentions and affections, all seeking to occupy the same increasingly crowded bit of real-estate for a few precious seconds.
And when it comes to breaking through the virtual din, nothing moves the needle quite like conflict. As a result most people (Christians included) welcome it, nurture it, and if needed—we manufacture it. This is true of faith-based bloggers, big time pastors, celebrity evangelists, savvy politicians, and Christian folks looking to grow their brands and ministries.
All too often we who claim Christ are as divisive and antagonistic and combative out here as anyone, and I’ll be the first to cop to it and repent of it. Yeah, we name drop Jesus but we’ll take you out in a flurry of tell offs and put downs while we do it. It’s a startling easy trap to fall into: begin by obeying a noble, sacred calling but end up chasing the cheap aphrodisiac of page views and post impressions.
And it would all be perfectly fine—except, Jesus.
Reading the words that begin the most famous sermon attributed to him, there is a quiet calm on display; a dignity and gentleness that now sounds foreign to our ears and easily become white noise fading off into the background. They’re actually radical, counterintuitive invitations but they don’t generate enough heat to register that way anymore.
I’m afraid that if Jesus were on social media today, most Christians wouldn’t follow him.
His posts would likely be buried in relative obscurity beneath loud, flashing layers of shade-throwing and name calling; written off as trite religious pabulum. He’d certainly never hope to go viral with that played out, hackneyed, “love one another” schtick.
In fact, try and echo the soft heart of the Beatitudes these days and you’ll find most Christians aren’t all that interested. Nothing sexy there. No juice. No bombast. No fireworks. Worse, it seems the louder people become in their call for compassion, the more they advocate for decency, and the greater they elevate humility, the more likely they are to get ignored online or soundly destroyed by a chorus of ticked off trolls, accusing them of watering down the Gospel. Christlike love now gets shouted down in the streets by the angry mob of our collective outrage.
So much of our modern spiritual experience runs on negativity that it’s become a core value. Take a look around. Remove the anger from many Christian’s social media expression of faith and you’ll often find there isn’t a whole lot left. Ironically the more commonplace controversy becomes in our public faith discourse, the less interesting Jesus seems to become to us and yet the more necessary he is.
He is the clear antidote to the chest-beating, pot-stirring, dying-to-go-viral vanity that we mistake for fervent faith; his steady benevolence a dying language as we all grow more fluent in bitterness.
When Jesus’ goodness and humility really take root in us, our inflated egos shrink back to their proper size, the towering facades of self we labor on crumble, and we begin seeking restoration as much as confrontation as we encounter people.
The ways of Jesus are the movement toward the small and the low places, they are the ways of denial and sacrifice and yielding to another, they are the path of mercy giving and peacemaking.
They are beautiful and filled with “life that is truly life”—but maybe that isn’t enough to grab us anymore.