I got off of social media (except for work-related things) a few weeks ago. I highly recommend a good fast from social media every now and then, especially during an election season. I chose to fast not because of some super spiritual reason. I got off of social media because I found myself engaging in un-helpful dialogue around theology and race and politics. When I found myself unusually drawn to memes that said, “your google search is not the same as my theology degree,” I knew it was time to say good-bye for a while.
All of this has me wondering, as Jesus followers, how are we supposed to engage in disagreements during conflict? Furthermore, in the world of social media, how do we survive an election season and stay on social media?
One time Jesus was asked about the most important thing that the people of God are supposed to do and Jesus said this:
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40 NASB
What you may not know is that Jesus says these words in the middle of great conflict and disagreement with the religious leaders.
By the time we get to Jesus saying these words in Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus has already silenced the Sadducees (22:34) and in response to this, the Pharisees gathered themselves together to try and trap Jesus. Jesus offended the religious leaders by turning over a bunch of tables in the temple where they were selling stuff for worship at high prices to poor people (21:12-17) Jesus has called them hypocrites. He frequently uses the term “evil” to describe these religious leaders (12:34; 9:4; 12:39, 45; 16:4; 22:18). He identifies them closely with Satan, the evil one (13:19, 38–39). Among other things he calls them a “brood of vipers” (3:7; 12:34; 23:33) and “children of hell” (23:15). Jesus also spends the entire chapter 23 delivering woes to them.
Jesus is ANGRY and he’s not like apologizing for his anger. He is not leaning away from the conflict or being silent or being passive. He is engaging the conflict and these words come at the near climax of that conflict.
Why is Jesus so angry at the religious leaders? Jesus is angry that religious leaders are using their power to put unnecessary burdens on the people and in doing so they are neglecting to love. And they are doing this in the name of their love for God. There is a problem though.
In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus is saying that to love God is to love others and to love others is to love God. All of the law and prophets hang on, depend on, these two commandments. In other words, if we are not loving others then we are not loving God. Love matters more. Love matters more than laws. Love matter more than rules. If the law is preventing me from loving someone, then the law needs to be re-examined and perhaps re-interpreted. The religious leaders were guilty of using their power to burden people with the law instead of love people. How can these words of Jesus be a resource for us today as we find ourselves in the midst of conflict?
It’s ok to engage conflict. Being loving doesn’t mean being silent or passive.
If you are struggling to love someone, focus on how you are loving and receiving love from God. This may be how you gauge whether or not it is time to fast or turn off the news or take a break from certain groups. Maybe it’s time to ask, what am I missing about the love of God for my or for the world?
If the law or rules you are living by are preventing you from loving someone, it may be time to re-examine that law in the light of the commandment to love.
Whether you are taking a break from social media or if you are right in the middle of the conflict, remember that love matters more.