Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
Like most of you I have a smartphone, that magical portal to a universe of information, helpful apps and once in a while contact with another human being, usually by text. It has become a practical necessity to do life in a digital age. How did we get places before Google Maps? How did we stay current on our friends’ lives before Facebook and Instagram? The smartphone has opened up a world of good things for us.
But alas, your smartphone also has the potential to poison your relationships and destroy your unity with others. Because not only does it give you access to the good stuff, but also to an inexhaustible reservoir of news feeds and social media, much of which is designed to stir up outrage and divide us.
Adam Mabry, pastor and author of a new book titled Stop Taking Sides, says the following.
The “smart” folk in the media no longer treat disagreement as an occasion for conversation but for tribal competition, mud-slinging, and point-scoring—and five minutes on any social-media platform will show even the most optimistic of us that the world takes its lead from its media. In their “Hidden Tribes” study, More in Common—an international initiative trying to understand this phenomenon—found that “many of today’s most contentious issues are framed as us-versus- them identity-based struggles.”
In other words, we are learning from our smartphones (or our laptops) how to hate the people we disagree with. Civil dialog leading toward better understanding is replaced by the imperative to crush the opposition. Therefore, if we immerse ourselves too deeply and too constantly in the flood of “us-versus-them” mentality that the media provides, our ability to have unity with those of a different viewpoint suffers.
This is where the proverb comes into play. The companion of fools suffers harm.
A companion is someone you spend a lot of time with, someone you’ve chosen to be close to you, someone who has your receptive ear. How much is your phone your companion? How much influence have you given its media stream over your thinking? It may be more than you realize. One way to tell is by how you react when your fellow believers say something you don’t agree with. Do you feel justified in unleashing your ungracious words? Do you believe you have a moral mandate to shame them into repentance? If so, then you’ve probably been harmed by your foolish companion.
There is a better companion, a supremely wise one, who bids you to walk with him and learn his ways. His name is Jesus. Mind you, he is no stranger to disagreeing with others. Far from it! In fact, he was crucified for the very reason that he would not compromise on the truth about our sin and our need of forgiveness. But he teaches us a different approach in our disagreement with other believers (or anyone else for that matter).
He says learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29). His word says Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29). How different this tone is from the “tribal competition, mud-slinging, and point-scoring” of media. Choosing to be gracious from a posture of gentleness and lowliness is the wisdom we learn by walking with Jesus. And counterintuitively, it is much more likely to generate productive conversations when we disagree.
Believing friends, by all means use your smartphone as a helpful tool. But make Jesus your companion. That is how we build unity.