Oh, For The Love of Memes
If you spend any time on social media you’ve seen them. In fact, they’re impossible to avoid. Memes, memes, memes. Everywhere there are memes.
On the off-chance you don’t know what a meme is, the word comes from the Greek. According to Wikipedia, a meme (pronounced “meem”), is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” In short, a meme represents a cultural idea, often delivered in a symbolic way. You’ll see a picture, sometimes with a famous person, with a caption describing what that person is thinking. Many memes will communicate a concept meant to be accepted as a truth.
Why do I bring them up here?
Because so many are wrong.
Except When They Aren’t Funny
Recently a friend shared a meme on his Facebook page. It said something like this:
Fools take a fork and stabs a person in the back.
A wise person takes the fork, cuts the cord, and frees themselves of fools.
So what’s the problem? Kinda makes sense, right? We all know fools. We all want to be rid of them in our lives. There are hundreds of memes that mean to communicate this kind of truth. So it must be right.
Being Pithy Ain’t The Same As Being Wise
The problem is that we accept these things as truth. You’ll see loads of people pile on and comment about how insightful memes like this are. What troubles me most is when I see friends who are believers pile on with just the same enthusiasm.
If there is a negative person in your life, you just need to move on! they’ll say.
Why does this matter? Because we’ve all been that negative person at some point. We’ve all been the fool, probably at many points. So gleefully arguing that we should all walk away from a person that we have been…and will be again…is just silly.
And it is arrogant. We all want to be wise, don’t we? But are we wise enough to notice the unspoken arrogance in that meme quote above? Wouldn’t it be better to be so wise that we cut the cord and free ourselves of fools?
I would argue it simply makes us pretentious, not wise. The more we lean into this way of thinking—and acting—the more mean-spirited we can become, all the while feeling smug about how “wise” we are. Hmm. Not quite the type of person that we would want to become.
What’s more, how do we square this impulse to be rid of negative people in our lives—those fools that getting rid of makes us “wise”—with our faith? That doesn’t sound like something Jesus would do. Nowhere in the Bible do I find verses to support such behavior. But you don’t have to look far to find loads of passages that actually counter such mean-spiritedness.
When Meme and Mean Blend
Most saddening to me in all this is that fellow believers have thoroughly embraced this prideful point of view, that has them agreeing with being rid of fools.
What if they got that wrong?
A man’s wisdom gives him patience;
It is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
A quick review of Romans 9 reminds us that had God chosen our worldview of what is actually “wise,” we’d all be doomed, rather than redeemed. And yet believers are the quickest to adopt this impulse to cut off relationships with fellow believers, in my experience. More times than I care to count, I have been the “fool” in their perspective, and I’ve been cut off. Just like that. Because it is wise. It must be because the meme said so!
Believers would do well to remember that two Apostles, Peter and Paul, had a huge and very public disagreement with each other. Visualize how that would work in our day: Paul stands up in a crowded church and condemns Peter for hypocrisy. Very public. No room to wiggle. Peter stares at Paul, slack jawed by this stinging rebuke, as he scrambles with how to respond.
There Are No Apostolic Memes. No, Really.
Peter didn’t respond with a meme.
He did what we are all called to do as believers. Consequently, he sought out true wisdom. With daily commitment, he sought out Truth. And he owned his error, repented of it and sought reconciliation with his brother in Christ. Rather than immediately break away from that trouble-making, negative guy named Paul, he sought to make things right with him and those around him, within his fellowship, as well as those outside of it.
If we as believers gleefully congratulate ourselves for being wise when we dump others, how will those outside of the faith ever be drawn into the church? Simple answer. They won’t.
As believers, we’re not given the option to just dump people because we don’t agree with them or they don’t agree with us. We dare not cut them off because they called us on a hurtful behavior. Doing this doesn’t make us wise. It just makes us like the rest of the world, unwilling to face our own actions.
But that’s not what our Savior calls us to be.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… 2 Cor. 5:18
Becoming a Living Reconciliation Meme
Will we always reach reconciliation with others? No. But are we called to try? Yes, without a doubt. And wouldn’t you want to be wrong on that side of the ledger?
Next time we’ll take a look at those times when it is appropriate—even necessary—to part ways with someone, even a fellow believer. But know this: it is a much rarer circumstance than some believers regularly want to believe.