My thought for the weekend is not limited to this one instance, but touches on the broader issue of once something is put on the web, it can be really difficult to remove it. Children at school are taught, quite rightly, that public comments on Instagram and Twitter are public, and therefore care and discernment are needed when posting. Society is in real time working out how previous behaviours can be reconciled with maturing attitudes, especially when remorse and regret are expressed. At what point does redemption and forgiveness for past sins come into play on the social platform?
Robinson is not on his own - shortlisting panels often do a web search on prospective job applicants and stray tweets can backfire, even if they are irrelevant or perhaps not true. Sam Wells, a vicar, theologian and world renown public speaker on ethics summarises things such: ‘everything is up for comment, nothing can truly be trusted, and communication is speeded up and expanded as fast as it is devalued. The Babel that became Pentecost has become Babel again’. *
Strong words. But the Church of the future will undoubtedly be a hybrid community of in person gathering and online meeting. Writing in 2016 Wells recognised then the positive ways technology can enable church to reach those isolated and house bound - as now evidenced in our pandemic times. Back in 2016 he commented, ‘Christians should be engaging [with social media] as quickly as 500 years ago they realised the power of the printing press to spread the words of scripture’. *
What about my initial question, given that the church emerging from the pandemic will be hybrid in nature? Does social media give space for saying sorry? Perhaps Church online will model forgiveness as we show the reconciling, love of God and how coming to God in confession is an act of grace on God’s behalf. I’m excited that the Christian concept of saying sorry and bringing to God our regret and shame is always a healing experience, as Jesus deals with sin at the cross and sets us free. Yes there are always consequences to sin, and yet we are made right before God because of God’s reparation in Christ. To experience grace makes us people who want to pass on that grace to others. It softens our hearts and makes us people who make peace and are quick to forgive. Our faith also shows us ways to live with love and integrity and points us away from destructive comments that ostracise and devalue others. Let’s keep praying that God will go before us as we connect people online with the loving, forgiving, gracious love of God and pray that people will know freedom and flourishing of God’s way of living.
* How then shall we live? Christian Engagement with Contemporary Issues, Samuel Wells 2016