In many ways, we are very blessed to live at the time we do. We have a higher standard of living and more opportunities than people at any other time of history. Among the many blessings we enjoy is the privilege of being heard. The Internet allows us ordinary people to voice our opinions to a world-wide audience. I’ve personally benefited from the new technologies because they’ve made it possible for me to write and publish books even though I don’t have the credentials a traditional publisher would require.
However, the new technologies are a double-edged sword. Though they empower people like me, they also allow everyone to vent his spleen. Because the Internet affords a certain amount of anonymity, people aren’t always held accountable for what they say. They can say outrageous and extreme things with no or little consequence. People will say things online that they would never dare say to someone face-to-face. Then, when someone takes offense at what was said, they will fire back with something which is even more incendiary. Invective takes the place of discourse and dialog.
The new technologies also amplify – whether for good or ill. One person’s opinion appears as though many others shared it. And, it is true that like-minded people can find and interface with each other as they never could before. Unfortunately, the feedback can encourage people to up their rhetoric. They become even more entrenched in their position. It becomes harder to have a discussion about differences of opinion. Disagreement is met with accusations of hate. It seems to me that this is one reason our society is becoming more and more polarized.
It becomes a vicious cycle. A person says something somebody else doesn’t like. He responds with an accusation, and the flame wars begin. Soon, the various sides can’t think of each other without saying something nasty.
We shake our heads at some of the things we hear people throw at each other. Yet, are we any better? I’m sure that most of us here have been tempted at one time or another to say some inappropriate things on social media or in blog comments. Some of us may have even done it. The truth is that if we gave reign to our natural inclinations, our behavior wouldn’t be any better than what we decry in others. It is only because we belong to Christ and are letting Him transform us that we have a higher standard.
Paul writes to Titus, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7 NIV)
It is Jesus who broke the cycle of hate. We were nothing special. We hadn’t done anything good that made us better than other people. We were just as bad as anybody else. But Christ looked beyond what we were and saw what we could be. It is His love that provided us a way out of the downward spiral of hate we were trapped in. His love gives us hope. In His love, He made us heirs of eternal life.
We are so blessed that it’s easy to forget what we were before Christ rescued us. It’s easy to fall back into the old ways of thinking and doing things. It can be tempting to respond to others with the same hate they display toward us. That’s one reason why we take the time each week to remember Christ’s love. He showed us, in a very practical way, that love triumphs over hate. The bread represents His body which He sacrificed for us. The juice represents His blood which transforms us.
These emblems not only remind us of what Jesus did for us, they also remind us that we too, have an obligation. Because Christ loved us we, too, need to love others – even when they are obnoxious – even when they are hateful. Just as Christ’s love freed us, our love might help someone else break the cycle of hate.
John writes, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:7-12 NIV)
Today as we participate in Communion, let’s not only thank Christ for His love, let’s also renew our commitment to love one another and those around us.