I grew up mostly during the pre-internet era when personal interaction was the only way to get to know people. If I wanted to connect with my friends, I had to actually meet them. And when we meet, we had nothing else to do but to talk. But things have changed a lot.
It is now possible to connect with friends through different social media and messaging system. It is easy to find a group of friends gathered together around a table, not talking at all because everyone is on their phone. I really appreciate the new technologies and inventions (I’m a big fan of them as you know) but sometimes I’m thankful that I was born before the internet became popular. Many things were just so much better back in the days, such as hand-written mail and beeper. (some of you have no clue what that is!) They give you memories and sentiments that could not be reproduced by email and cell phone. These tools actually helped people to emotionally get closer and to cherish the moments together.
It seems that our relationship is getting widerbut the depthis missing in many ways. We have so many friends through Facebook but we also feel lonely or isolated. It is because social media unintentionally made us believe that we can have a meaningful relationship without a community of real people. It’s not possible because true intimacy is built through constant adjustments through conflicts.
Psychiatrist M.Scott Peck talked about two different communities: Genunie community and Pseudo community. He says unless we are intentional, our community tends to degrade into pseudo-community. The biggest difference between the two is that in the pseudo-community, people are toleratedand out of fear, they do not share what they are really thinking. Since the goal is to tolerate people, you never do things that offend people. So everyone always tries to be nice to one another, sharing only the good news. On the other hand, in genuine community, people are celebrated so everyone is honest about themselves and conflict is accepted, not avoided. Since the goal is to build intimacy with people, everyone feels the need to open up and say what they really think.
The church that Jesus built was to be the Genuine community, through continuous adjustments and forgiving. Of course, a bit of tension and chaos will be there but they are an absolute necessity for a group to go beyond the superficial state. We know healthy married couples are those that overcome conflicts – those that never fight will never get far in their intimacy. In this era of technology, if we don’t become intentional about gathering together and fighting through conflicts and tensions, we will be satisfied with the pseudo-community where everyone looks happy all the time, only to find no meaningful relationship is built.