So when I was a kid, for some reason my parents deemed “oldies” – the songs of the 50s, 60s, and 70s – safe and harmless for the little ears. Because of this, I’m the usually the only person younger than 40 who wanders Trader Joe’s singing along to every single word of “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies.
Of course now that I’m an adult, I’m like, GUYS, these songs are all about sex and drugs, and my parents just shrug. Because they’re done raising kids and just completely okay with the fact that they did a lot of strange things when we were growing up.
Anyhow, I was considering this strange online social networking world we live in the other day when a line popped into my head from one of these countless oldies that remains embedded in my memory. That line, “Love the one you’re with” comes from a completely terrible song from the early 70s that has nothing to do with anything, but bear with me and I’ll explain how that phrase in particular applies.
I recently talked with a friend about our shared love for a particular blog post and it occurred to me later that we had been talking about the writer of that post, a total stranger, as though she were a close friend. How much we loved her, what she said, how we totally “got” her. And you know what? That’s a little weird.
As a Christian, I think it’s easy to read article after article and blog post after blog post and forget to live in the world we live in. If we’re not careful, I think all of these opinions and ideas that we read about online can prevent us from loving the very people God has placed in our lives for us to love.
When you read the New Testament, you find that it’s not actually supposed to be easy. We’re not meant to group together by idea and opinion, but rather complement one another as the strengths of one support the weaknesses of another and vice versa. This is the beauty of the church, but also the difficult thing about it.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many…if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?…as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose…there are many parts, yet one body.
This is all lovely to think about, but what does it mean, practically? It means we must celebrate the varied gifts among us and appreciate the necessity of that diversity. Because if it weren’t for that, we’d be a giant eye, which makes no sense…and is quite honestly a little creepy.
And this is what I mean when I say “love the one(s) you’re with.” I don’t know that we, as believers, have quite taken the time to reckon with how the internet has impacted the way we are living together in love and unity as believers.
Instead of loving the ones in our own church, in our own small group, in our own community, we “love” those we’ve found out there in the nebulous internet world who think and act just as we think people ought to.
Of course this is not real love. If anything, it is just self-love. I love my own way of thinking more than I love the people in my life.
With access to millions of blog posts and to the myriad of social media venues, we’ve found a way to find all of the eyes who are just like us and it just reinforces our belief that we’ve got it all right and figured out. There is this illusion of having found community with people we either don’t know or know vaguely from having a class with them 10 years ago or something.
But nothing is required of me when this is my community. I get to just be me, and no one pushes back. And if they do, I can just mute them or unfollow them or hide them or make a nasty comment from the comfort of my couch.
If, however, my community is made up of the actual people in my life, things are definitely more difficult and complex, but infinitely more sweet. This is how Christ sanctifies us. He puts a bunch of sinful people together and calls them to seek Him in unity.
I lay down my life for them, and they do the same for me. I bear with their weaknesses and they with mine. I pick them up when they’re down, and call them when I can’t get up. And, perhaps most importantly, I call them to holiness where I see sin taking hold in them, and they call me to the same.
Without the body of Christ, I am blind to all of the ways in which I need to grow. I need the ear to say, “Hey listen, I know you see that, but I hear this.” I need the feet to say, “Let’s go, we’ve got work to do.” I need the hands to say, “Here is a way we must serve.” We need each other’s differences.
Let’s ask ourselves then, am I meaningfully involved in my church community? Or have I replaced actual community with the false sense of community that I’ve found elsewhere. There are plenty of helpful things being said online, but the church is where the living and loving is actually happening. Get in there and love the ones you’re with.