One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ (Mark 12:28-31)
Recently I made the decision to catch up with our culture and so joined Twitter. On this social media platform one can decide who she will “follow” including both general topics (politics, religion, health) and very specific opinions. And the more a person “likes” posts of a particular opinion or theme, the more of those same opinions or themes show up in one’s feed. AND, should that person write a post, tagging related topics, she will be forever connected into those feeds.
I know this from experience as, just last week Gabriel and I thought it would be fun to “tweet” an invitation at Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to visit us at Children’s hospital because we were bored and imagined his presence might brighten our mood. In the end, Mr. “The Rock” did not come and visit, however, because I had tagged #childhoodcancer in the tweet, our message got retweeted a couple of dozen times AND now I get tagged daily in childhood cancer tweets being sent out from all over the country.
All of this is to say that I am convinced that Twitter exists to hold like minded people close. The unfortunate downside of this is that, often, in the empowerment that inevitably comes from community, we are tempted to mistaken our ideas and opinions as fact and then use them as weapons against one another. And so Twitter, as far as I have experienced, is a collection of ideas, opinions, and rants thrown violently and carelessly at others.
… at our neighbor.
Yes, these human-less profiles on social media and even often on the other side of our televisions and newspapers are indeed our neighbor. I know we progressive Christians prefer to define the “neighbor” Jesus calls us to love as the marginalized, the oppressed, and the voiceless. We fulfill this most important requirement by bringing food to the homeless, visiting the imprisoned, and protesting racial violence. And, these are our neighbors – our co-created; our co-divine.
But Jesus reminds us that “loving our neighbor” ALSO requires us to pray for our enemies for “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” By asking, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” Jesus harkens us back to our selective reasoning around who we recognize as neighbor and challenges us to see the divine neighborhood as it was created to be: infinitely diverse, with as many “truths” are there are experiences.
But I’m pretty sure Twitter is not interested in the humility and self sacrifice it takes to love those who do not share our experiences and ideas. I don’t see those posting their self righteous impressions for the world to re-tweet or at least reply, terribly concerned with learning the life story including challenges, hopes and dreams, of the brother they are calling out. I can’t imagine that Twitter users are looking for unity and peace between people. Twitter is not a platform for empathy.
Twitter IS a microcosm of our real-life communities though, and so we ought to take note. While I may be capable of avoiding partisan scrumming and against those with whom I disagree on Twitter, my life in Christ requires I love these even as I love God – even as I love myself.
I would argue the most important and even dire command of our God today, as we love our God with all of our being, is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, remembering that our neighbor is ALSO that person we have dehumanized, called stupid or monster or ignorant, or even pointed out as the perpetrator of the very injustices we have committed to making right…
… for the sake of unity among creation and for the sake of peace. Cheryl