You know how Facebook likes to remind you of the past? There’s an app that was created to post pics or other events on the same date that you originally posted throughout your life. “On This Day” you became friends with Bob. On This Day you got engaged. On This Day you had a grilled cheese sandwich.
So, let’s say you had a picture that popped up on your news feed. It’s a fun picture that reminds you of a fun time with a fun group of people. So you go ahead and share it.
Then, a few days later, you get a private message. One of your friends writes, “hey, how are you.” And then something like, “I know that this pic was a good time and that you can do what you want, but it is a terrible memory for me. You might remember that the man in the pic that I was dating was an abusive, lying, cheating @$^#!% and that it was that night I found out he was cheating on me. When I saw your photo, I burst into tears, and I have been struggling the past few days to get it back together. Every time I log into FB I see that photo. It gets a lot of likes and comments. I know that you all had a good night. I know that it’s nostalgic for you and a lot of our friends. But it was the worst night of my life. I just want you to know that and I had to hide your posts, because I felt like I was just finally getting over all that happened. I just wanted you to know why I removed your tag.”
What do you do? If you are any kind of friend at all, and if you are a decent person at all… you delete that post as fast as your little thumbs can tap tap tap. And you write back apologizing profusely and blaming yourself for forgetting about that, because you’re a crappy friend who was self-absorbed and not paying enough attention to someone else’s life and the pain and darkness swirling around her.
You take that sucker down. It doesn’t matter that it was a great memory for the rest of the people in the photo. It doesn’t matter that your friend could just hide or unfollow you. What matters is that you love your friend intensely, and you would never consciously hurt someone you love.
And this is what I don’t get about people who say they’re Christians, who say they love God and Jesus and are still arguing about our history’s pictures. I mean, the response of many people is essentially writing back to your friend, “Yeaaaaah, I remember that guy. He was a jerk and I’m sorry that happened to you. But hey, the rest of us had a great time and you should just focus on the good stuff that happened. Oh, and I never meant to hurt your feelings. I’m not a mean, vindictive person. I’m just ignorant and forgetful. My bad. Hope you’re doing better. Cheers.”
So, I had this happen to me, more or less. I still remember how awful I felt about posting a picture that caused a friend pain. I still remember that feeling in my gut that didn’t let me sleep well that night. I knew I lost a friend, maybe not entirely, but a little bit more that day. Why? Not because I was being intentionally harmful. Not because I am a mean person. Not because I’m arrogant, though you could argue that self-absorbed people have another form of arrogance. We don’t look past our own noses. We don’t think through the lives of others – what got them where they are and how it is such a different location from where we are. We don’t consider the experiences of suffering and pain – at least not until we experience our own – and then it’s often too late to make any traction on the road to recovering a relationship. We’ve already lost it. Like, race relations in our country, we can’t even agree on where we are, much less how we got here.
For many, the problem right now is that this issue isn’t personal enough for some of us. It isn’t individual, in our faces. It isn’t our dear friend coming to us, crying out from a place of pain and anger. It isn’t someone we know, sobbing into our cups of coffee in our living rooms, begging us to listen to them, begging us to care more. Our empathy is a reserved space. By invite only. We have shut it down to anything and anyone who doesn’t quite make sense to us or just simply isn’t on our radar.
If you’re paying attention at all to the world you live in, your radar must be getting wider and more sensitive. If you claim to follow Jesus and to learn more of his love and grace, your radar picks up more than you intuitively understand. The radar picks up levels of anger and hurt that we have never understood, historically, systemically. And it beeps at us, commanding our attention and demanding that we research, we listen, we learn. Our radars are picking up incoming missiles, left and right, and all around. And our radars must also pick up the survivors barely holding on, treading for dear life, trying to make sense of what’s happened and hoping beyond hope that someone will help them understand and not just survive but thrive. Is the Church in America helping many people? Is the Church busy on a search and rescue mission? We should be.
There are missiles aiming for these survivors. There is a ship of sin and darkness firing all their weapons, heading right for us all, as it always has been. An enemy crouching at our door. We can ignore it for only so long. Or we can fight the enemy – the sins of arrogance, hatred, violent evil, disrespect, and, yes, even, apathy. We defend ourselves against this enemy and we defend those we love, those who are defenseless, and those who are treading water. We fight it with all our resources and all our might. We fight it with truth and grace. We love better, we give grace better, we worship more, we pray louder and longer than ever before.
And we take that sucker down.