I recently read an article with a tag line, “what the church can learn from Fallon.” (I think I’ve said this before, but I LOVE Jimmy Fallon. I constantly tell Stuart that I want to be Jimmy’s BFF. I’m also secretly jealous of his bestie friendship with Drew Barrymore, who I also love, and wish we could all just be friends and hang out.) Anyway…the article was about how in the past, much of late night entertainment has been full of cynicism, criticism and bitterness.
But now, in the new era of Jimmy Fallon’s take on late night television, where each night you’ll see “light-hearted, variety show style entertainment,” late night is becoming more fun, and less cynical. Where many other late night entertainers laughed AT guests, Jimmy laughs WITH them. He’s described as “relentlessly optimistic” and “authentic,” as opposed to ironic, like many other late night headliners.
(Now, I’m not saying that I agree with everything that comes out of Jimmy’s mouth. And during some of his monologues he definitely does poke fun at people…but despite that, he’s still much more optimistic, authentic and joyful than most other late night entertainers.)
As I stated in my first In Real Life post last week, the internet is an easy place to voice our opinions without caring who they hurt, how they’re taken, and what repercussions may come from putting our thoughts out there. And many times, Christians are some of the worst in this new era of social media “word vomit.”
More people are beginning to view the church as a collection of people who are insensitive, judgmental and hostile to all other opinions other than their own.
Yes there are things happening in our world that go against the teachings in the Bible. But are we called to spread the truth in such a harsh way? How does Jesus’ amazing grace fit into that scheme? After all, Jesus states that his two most important commandments are to LOVE. Love the Lord, and love others. There’s a time and a place for truth, but LOVE trumps all.
How will others be able to see the love of Jesus in us if we’re too busy berating them for their differing [even wrong] opinions? Yes, Jesus always stated truth to those around him. But He first showed them love. Jesus told Zacchaeus, the tax collector (who cheated people and demanded more than they were due) that He would come to his house and spend time with him – without first confronting him on how he was sinning against those he collected money from. He showed Zacchaeus LOVE, and out of that love came truth, realization and a changed heart.
Once again, Shauna Niequist describes it perfectly. You need two things in order for transformation to happen: trust and truth. Just as iron sharpens iron with heat and force, (heat makes it malleable and force moves it once it’s hot) a person sharpens a person through trust and truth. (Also seen in Proverbs 27:17) Unfortunately, a lot of people forget the trust part of the equation. Shauna says this:
“The heat is trust: the sense of being known, accepted, and loved. It’s that feeling of warmth when someone knows your story, your family, your strengths and weaknesses, when you know they love you no matter what. Heat is a sense of togetherness, of grace and safety.” [Taken from Savor]
There’s a heck of a lot of truth [or what some people THINK is truth] out there on the internet, but where’s the trust? The grace? The safety? The acceptance? As Shauna says, “how often have you found yourself truly moved to change, to choose a better path or make something right, because someone on the internet screamed about it?”
It’s not always easy to love those who are different than you. Some of the people who were with Jesus grumbled about him spending time with someone as despicable as a greedy tax collector. I mean who the heck did Jesus think He was to spend time with someone who was cheating others? Wait, isn’t Jesus also the one who defended a woman who was caught in adultery??
A crowd was about to stone her and Jesus protected her. He didn’t first say to her, “um miss, you are a horrible person. You are sinful, you are disgusting, you are guilty of a lot of bad stuff. Repent of your sins, then I’ll make this crowd go away.”
He defended her FIRST.
He loved her FIRST.
Then once she came to a realization of His love, He spoke truth to her. (John 8)
So often, we get caught up in our little church bubble. We hear the phrase, “in the world but not of it,” and allow that to be our excuse to stay in our comfort zone. Jesus did say that we are “not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14 and again in vs. 16) But what we often forget is the remainder of Jesus’ famous high priestly prayer:
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
(John 17:15, emphasis mine.)
Yes we are not OF the world. But that doesn’t mean Jesus wants us to take ourselves OUT of the world. He continues His prayer asking God to send His disciples into the world just as He, Himself was sent. As David Mathis states, “maybe it would serve us better – at least in light of John 17 – to revise the popular phrase ‘in, but not of’ in this way: ‘not of, but sent into.’ “
So does that mean we have to talk to, mingle with, and even befriend SINNERS?!
Yes. Absolutely, yes.
Jesus says it plainly:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Who are we trying to impact when we put angry, intolerant, insensitive, (even possibly true) things online? Are we promoting our own agenda? Or are we promoting Jesus? Because if we’re promoting Jesus, we should follow His instructions to love others FIRST.
And if you’re wondering what love looks like, “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
How much of our online life follows those guidelines? If someone disagreed with something you posted online, wouldn’t you rather them take you aside in private, and speak kindly to you, offering a conversation and an understanding of your opinion, instead of just spitting out judgements and harsh words? When did being cynical become more trendy than being encouraging?
According to Strenghts Finder, “Positivity” is one of my top 5 strengths. However, I’ve learned over the years that being positive, optimistic and encouraging isn’t always “cool.” If you want to be respected, looked up to, and adored, many times you have to fight your way up there. You have to put others down so they can look up to you.
I’ve definitely been looked down upon for my hopeful, upbeat spirit. I was once told that I seem to “dance through life.” I’m sorry, but I happen to like dancing :) And I’d rather be hopeful and encouraging any day over cynical and oppressive. (Not that there’s not a time for being realistic…that’s another whole topic.) But when we’re united in Christ, in one body, we should be looking at the best in each other, encouraging each other’s gifts and showering each other with love.
“If you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2)
And if someone is not in Christ, shouldn’t our sole purpose in engaging with them be to lead them to our gracious, loving, accepting Savior? Yes, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14:6) But He also said, “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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40)
Sometimes I think we take on Jesus’ role of being the truth, when we should simply obey His commandment to LOVE. Yes truth is important. But love is everything.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing…so now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.“
1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13