The world seems perpetually bent on destroying itself, especially online. Factions comprised of disparate individuals unite around algorithmically driven ideals, burrowing deeper into echo chambers that reverberate their opposition indefinitely, never making any real change, just reinforcing and entrenching themselves further within their own spheres of thought and influence. We 'cancel' those who don't agree with us; we praise free speech and being true to oneself while at the same time allowing only those who heartedly agree with our current position — which changes by the hour online, it seems, with every new trending topic and hashtag — to be seen as acceptable. The phrase, 'If you're not with me, you're against me.' has never rung more true. Everyone is at each other's throats. Peace is absent. Diversity is praised as long as it's the type of diversity that aligns with what is fashionable to our current worldviews.
These types of behaviors of making open-handed issues closed-handed and then fighting tooth and nail to defend them are what might be expected and even celebrated outside of the body of Christ. Still, for those who call themselves followers of Christ, it appears to be wholly out of place. In his letter to the church of Ephesus, Paul beseeched them, and consequently us as well, to live a life worthy of the calling we have received through Christ Jesus. In Ephesians 4, the body of Christ is instructed to strive for unity through the bond of peace. If Paul were among us today, I wonder if he would not write similarly to the church in America, or even as far as all of western Christianity, to strive for unity through peace. This peace comes through humility, meekness, and loving forgiveness.
Rarely am I on Facebook these days, but every once in a while, I log in to catch up on digital memories and events that took place years ago or share some larger life update. During these sessions, I sometimes find myself slowly scrolling through the feed of updates from old friends and loose acquaintances. More and more, though, it seems rather than genuinely aiming to celebrate life or share meaningful updates, those connections of mine who are Christians seem ever bent on laying claim to divisive stances or fabricating division where there is none. Generally, these differences arise from politics — the religion of the age. Regardless of the admonished position, side, or stance, most of the language accompanying it in the status, and subsequently the comments, appears to be designed to cut, belittle, put-down, shame, and wound. Admittedly, I too have fallen for these snares and have found myself embroiled in heated, well-intentioned debate that eventually devolves into nothing more than, "I'm right. You're wrong. And, if we disagree, then we are enemies."
Christians are no more immune to this type of deception and spiritual destruction than anyone else. We should be more on guard, but it appears that at large, we too can often become the most basic and lowest common denominator.
In Ephesians 4, the challenge that the Apostle Paul puts forth to believers is to seek the unity of the Spirit [God] through a bond of peace, which only comes through the laying down of pride and ego. Where pride is, cannot be. Our pride is what causes this division. It is the same stumbling block that brought low the Satan.
I don't suspect that many strive to be pot-stirrers, but instead, bring unity through a bond of peace that is a Frankensteined creation of our own making and with some of Christ mixed in. Rather than making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit, we exalt ourselves and our vision for the world against others and challenge them to circle and unite around personal ideals. We desire unity insofar as it agrees with us and our feelings. More common than naught, gentleness and patience are far from heated debates and family dinner tables, yet that is what we are called to: to bear with one another in love, not simply write them off or 'block' them from our lives.
In the words of theologian Matthew Henry, "Only by pride comes contention; only by humility comes love."
What unity are we living under? Looking at the last few things I've posted online myself on Twitter and elsewhere, I can firmly say that there have been many instances where I have not fought for the unity of Christ as much as my own opinion. At this stage in life, it's not lost on me how wrong I can so often be. Perhaps, we should allow the words of God, through the Apostle Paul and the work of the Holy Spirit, to sink in anew. In a world that is search for answers and is fed up with the intensity and lack of harmony, we are promised a better way. Although it cannot be more difficult to bear with one another in love and patience, especially instances where our passion is hot and feelings are strong, we as followers of Christ are called to it. This, perhaps, is part of our path's narrowness that we must walk through; this is another part of the cross we must bear, as it has been borne before us and for us.