Loving Others in the Digital Age
“Relationships are the WD-40 of life.” Dan Hall
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35
I am excited for you to read our cover story on Cheryl Salem this month. You may remember her as our third Miss America from right here in Mississippi. Her story happened before the days of political correctness or #MeToo. She comes from a time when it really was safe to be who you are and all these years later, Cheryl is still Cheryl. How refreshing and real and totally unapologetic for her faith and her miraculous story.
The Digital Revolution has transformed every institution in our world in the last twenty years. It seems the only certainty is that game-changing technology will continue to impact our lives on a daily basis.
Social media is this ubiquitous thing with an amazing 21st Century power to define success in business and in relationships. I read a blog last week following the World Economic Forum conclave in Davos stating that it has opened up a whole new professional field, and future leaders will emerge because of their social media genius as that will be far more important than charisma or talent. It’s a global thing. I sort of liked individuals and personalities and the no-one-size-fits-all world.
Somehow in the middle of all this progress, I don’t feel particularly “improved.” I think we are losing the art of true heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul connections. I also think we may be having digital conversations, but is anybody really listening to anybody? Are our relationships as “virtual” as Siri or Alexa? We weren’t created in the image of our Maker to operate in a virtual world.
I imagine our grandparents bemoaned the advent of air conditioning. It took neighbors off their front porches into the comfort and isolation of their own four walls. A generation later, two career families isolated us just a bit more because fewer adults were home during the day to oversee the menagerie of neighborhood children who rode their bikes together and played games that included everyone. And now, we rarely know the names of the family who lives two doors down the street.
Something very sad has happened to our human interactions with one another.
I think we live in an unusual time in this culture war of opposing worldviews when everyone talks loud and over everybody else. I know it is important to have thick skin in this tough world, but thick skin and a resilient spirit can still house a tender heart and a sincere love for others. That is what I ask God to give to all of us who call ourselves his children. Such an authentic desire to listen and to seek to understand even when we may see things differently is a counter-cultural action that I assure you will cause others to ask, “What makes you operate that way?”
Unfortunately, I fail too often. Facebook and especially Twitter are my complete undoing lately. I can go for weeks ignoring the political rants and the accusatory name calling, but then, in an impulsive moment, I post an opinion that in no way meets the Philippians 4:8 criteria to think on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8). Within the hour, I get a reprimand from my daughter, Betsy. Don’t you hate it when your adult children correct you—especially when they indict you with your own words? By the time you read this, there is a very good chance I will have totally banished myself from social media.
In my seemingly prehistoric Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) days, we used to sing these words all the time with an acoustic guitar and a little bit of the Peter, Paul, and Mary flourish. (Anyone under 40 has no idea who Peter, Paul, and Mary are. FYI: they are NOT biblical characters).
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
I yearn for our restored unity as Believers. There is a dark world out there, and we are the only ones who know how to turn on the lights.