(In The Life Of The Church)
Giving Digital Grace
I have been looking for a way to back out of Facebook. Getting off is harder than I thought. Two reasons keep me there. I need to be able to edit UBC's Facebook page with my personal account. I think I found a loophole. The other is that as a pastor it's an incredibly effective way to keep an eye on "what's all the rage." Karl Barth said that preachers should preach with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. It turns out that Facebook, with its what's trending feature on the right side of the page, is an incredibly effective cultural newspaper.
A good question would then be--why do I want to get off Facebook? I'm not sure how to describe it. I think the best way would be an increasing hostile environment in the digital social sphere. Lest I sound judgmental, let me acknowledge that I may be the one posting items that make folks roll their eyes or feel uncomfortable. I'm sorry if you've found me to be one of those people.
Still, my own experience has left me puzzled at times. I'm growing less confident that the cavalier debates on the web grow people or further them in their discipleship. Social media provides a space to publicly ridicule and even humiliate with little to no form of accountability other than retaliation. I was reading an article a few weeks ago about cyber bullying (a different, but closely related problem) and I saw a reference to a this video in which Monica Lewinsky very bravely and openly addresses the problem of cyber bullying/shaming. Lewinsky makes a great point. She asks why we've, as a culture, promoted the most humiliating moments in people's lives? The answer is because it's a commodity. Large internet traffic turns people's misfortunes into advertising hot spots. Advertising means money.
In June I preached through a series of parables. In one of those sermons I mentioned how I was struck that the parables all landed readers in a place of humility at one point or another. The gospel teaches us that we are the:
- the little brother
- laborers who show up at five o'clock
- the lost sheep
- the ones locked out of the door
- those who learn to take the seat of less prominence
- those who gravitate towards foot washing
I think the point is that if you assume you're the one in the need of the most grace, you also understand you should give grace.
In one of those sermons I played a clip from the beginning of the movie The Tree of Life. Here's the dialogue from that scene.
“The nuns taught us there are two ways through life: the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow.
Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.
Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.”
Grace teaches us to the see the world a certain way. Surely Monica Lewinsky learned thing or two about accepting slight and being disliked, and now on the other end of that experience she's offering grace. I see this pattern over and over in the world. Those who suffer the most are often the most compassionate. But the difference between those who become more compassionate and those who end up bitter is nature and grace.
Galatians 2:20 teaches that we have been crucified. In our identity with Christ we have already suffered, therefore we are those who have been given grace to then give grace.
I'll conclude with this. George Saunders gave a graduation speech that got reprinted in the New York Times. I think about it often. Let me summarize most of it so I can get to the punchline. Saunders raises the issue of regret and then tells student about several moments from his past that should be quintessentially regrettable. Bad jobs, dumb choices that made him sick, an embarrassing sports moment that took place in front of a girl he liked. He concludes that he doesn't regret any of those things.
Saunders then goes on to describe a girl from his school that got picked on. Her life wasn't horrible, but she was habitually teased. Here's what Saunders reports:
Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.
And then — they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.
One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.
End of story.
Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.
But still. It bothers me.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
I guess my point is this. We all, or at least most of us, live in this digital space and we have an opportunity to be light bearers. To be the people who have been given grace and in turn give grace. So the next time you have a chance, offer something kind. It makes a difference.
Grillz & Chillz - August 12th - 6:00 PM @ the Haines
Our next all church hang out will be this Wednesday night. Please bring a dish to pass. The Haines have a swimming pool that will be mostly in the shade at this time. If you'd like to swim bring your suit and towel. For more information contact Toph@ubcwaco.org.
No Sunday School
Sunday School is done for the summer, looking for our Fall classes to begin on August 30th.
Work is Worship
Greeters: Denmans, McNamees, Kelsey
Coffee Makers: Tim and Adrienne Lee
Mug Cleaners: Kuhls
Sunday Sermon Text: Matthew 26:6-13 "The Worship Hour Part 2: Why We Give"
Last week was our last Waco dive for the summer. Thank you for joining us for lunch this summer.
UBC will be having a clean day after church on the 16th from noon-two.
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