Daily office commentary, Mark 6:7-13; shrugging off criticism and opposition

7-8 Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. He sent them off with these instructions:

8-9 “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple.

10 “And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.

11 “If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”

12-13 Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.

Mark 6:7-13, The Message Bible

Much of our social and political discourse today takes place online. For a variety of reasons, the communications medium of social media is uniquely structured to often bring out the worst in us. The instantaneous nature of the communication that does not incentivize slow, thoughtful deliberation and often results in snarkiness, “call outs,” mocking, and the reinforcement of group boundaries and identities.

I say this as someone who is as guilty of this as anyone. I would like, though, if my online interactions and communications were more reflective of my best loving self instead of my worst fearful self.

This passage from Mark is a helpful reminder. Jesus sent out the Twelve and gave them these instructions:

11 “If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”

Is there a way that this could also be applied to our social media interactions? If our communications are “not welcomed, not listen to,” is there an effective way that we could “quietly withdraw” without “making a scene?” How many of us are able to quickly “shrug our shoulders and be on our way” when personally attacked, criticized, or called out on social media for something?

At the same time, is it always desirable or ethically defensible to “quietly withdraw” when criticized on social media, especially when we are trying our best (imperfect as we are) to speak prophetically in favor of compassion and justice in the world? After all, silence can often effectively work to enable injustice rather than disable it. Are there ways to continue to engage with love, kindness, and compassion instead of vitriol? What might we be able to do to better put ourselves in the state of mind where this is more likely to happen?

This is so, so, so hard. I fail at it almost every day. I appreciate the constant reminders in the Gospels to try to return kindness and love in the face of vitriol and tension.

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