Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)
Nathanael might have been reading Philip’s status update on Facebook, for all we can tell. His reply sure sounds like the snarky comments we post when we read something we don’t agree with.
The dismissive behavior we display on Facebook and Twitter is really nothing new; in the second-century letter to Titus (c. 110 AD) we hear the writer’s strong warning to Christians against the kind of behavior we engage in so often, a verse worth memorizing because it stands the test of time.
Avoid stupid controversies … (Titus 3:9)
But why? The writer expands on his idea. “Avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
Arguing about stupid Episcopal Church controversies, trying to prove a point by citing the canons, stirring up partisan passion about how misguided the leaders at 815 are, debating who’s right and who’s wrong — none of these things communicate the inspiring truth about what God is doing in the world.
And it’s not just our internal church controversies that are stupid.
You don’t have to have an opinion about every story, every commentary on the evening news. You don’t even have to watch the news.
Your compelling evidence, exhaustively cited, won’t change the mind of that guy on Twitter. Besides which, no one wants to read your 57 nested tweets on the same subject (unless it’s #AddAWordRuinAMovie or #LentMadness).
Your dismissive comments on Facebook about Obama or Bush, gun control or transgender rights, Palestine or Israel, Guy Fieri or Anthony Bourdain — and your obsessive sharing of political posts (left or right) do not change anyone’s mind.
Usually, they just make you look like a jerk.
Not only is it a waste of time to engage in stupid controversies, it doesn’t actually help.
How does your arguing reflect the God we Christians worship, who hates nothing he has made and forgives the sins of all who are penitent (BCP 264)?
How do your opinions demonstrate your “new and contrite heart” and the humility of one who remembers “that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”?
How does your evidence against someone point to the God of all mercy and the “perfect remission and forgiveness” he offers for everyone?
How do your dismissive comments acknowledge your own “wretchedness”?
Pro tip: They don’t. Srsly.
Eager, not anxious
On Saturday mornings, we pray “that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of [God’s] sanctuary” (BCP 99).
We are anxious about so many things, and the news cycle and social media feed that anxiety. We feel like we have to be up-to-date, have to weigh in, have to have an opinion on everything.
What if we were instead eager for one thing?
What if we were eager to rest in God’s grace, so freely given to us, so freely shared with everyone?
What if we were eager to share that grace ourselves?
What if instead of arguing, we tried listening? Instead of offering opinions, we shared experiences? Instead of listing the evidence against, we tried hearing the evidence for? Instead of dismissing, we tried admitting?
What if we admitted other people into the rest we share? What if we admitted them into the sanctuary?
What if, instead of Nathanael’s snarky “Can anything good come from there?” we offered our humble invitation: “Come and see”?