Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Scratch an Itch?

Life is funny sometimes. By that I don’t really mean humorous, but ironic or peculiar. To give you an example of what I mean by that, a trivial thing happened to me yesterday. I was driving home from the store and suddenly I had an itch right in the center of my back. Not just “an itch”, but one of those hyper-itches, the kind that itches so bad your eyelids start to sweat and your muscles are twitching until you finally get to it. Yep, one of those kind of itches.

I finally reach my hand around behind me to scratch this insane itch, and what happens? You guessed it, it moved! Like hyper-itches always do, the second you scratch them they jump and skitter to another location and then you have to scratch there too. They never really go away, they just settle down to a tolerable level so you can get back to what you were doing. But... they always come back, sooner or later.

I couldn’t help but think about how Christian fellowship and discussion is exactly the same way as that pesky-moving-hyper-itch. Among believers there are certain hot-button topics that are sure to skitter all over the map as soon as they come up. Mode of baptism, modesty in dress, Calvinism, post-modernism, emergentism(?), female leadership, music, entertainment, parenting and the list could go on for a country mile. (I have no idea how long a country mile is, but I can only assume it’s longer than a city mile). These topics (and others) seem to have a life-cycle of their own and return to the table ever so often for more itching and scratching. In and of itself, that’s a GOOD thing, because even though they’ve been discussed countless times before (and often by the very same people many times) there’s always that possibility that someone new to the discussion is present, and may hear something they’ve never heard before, or in the case of blogging, read something they’ve never read before.

Once upon a time I used to spend pretty much all my free time (which doesn’t amount to much) in Christian chats. I still chat in #prosapologian when I can, but I don’t spend the amount of time I used to, for various reasons. Life has a way of getting in the way of quality chat time. However, #pros is the ONLY place I do chat, when I can, because the channel is run with professionalism, grace, and a healthy sense of humor. I appreciate that.

Christian chat rooms (in many ways) are much like Christian blogs. Someone brings up a topic, and whoever else present and interested, comments on the topic, which is then responded to, and more comments after that, and so on. See, very much like blogging. The one obvious difference however is that it’s live, and often people are speaking over each other in the text and it’s not always so easy to follow the flow of the discussion. Blogging has the advantage of the blogger or reader to read one point at a time and follow that flow.

In all the years I spent in Christian chats, one of the things I learned is that there is no such thing as a dead horse, when it comes to a topic of discussion that is of interest to a believer. If someone brings it up, that means they have questions that deserve honest and Biblical answers. They might not even be legit questions (chat troll-bait is common) but the one thing I always tried to keep in mind, is that no matter the motive (legit or trolling), there might be someone there just sitting quietly and reading, that has never had the opportunity to be a part of a conversation about that particular topic. I was once in a situation like that when I was first learning what the doctrines of grace are. I was truly blessed to be surrounded by believers online that were patient and gracious to answer all my stupid questions that they’d all heard a thousand times before.

In a funny way, I was that ever-annoying, hyper-itch that always returns. Of course I didn’t mean to be annoying, my questions were real and my interest was genuine – but I was among people who’d heard the same arguments and questions countless times before, and they could have easily just logged off and ignored me, weary from the discussion. They didn’t, and they blessed me more than they’ll probably ever know.

This isn’t really directed at anyone or any particular topic. It’s just a reminder that while there is a time to wipe the dust of your blogging sandals, there’s also a place for grace and longsuffering with those same topics when they come up again and again. We all have blog readers who almost never comment, until that one day when they finally do and say “you know, I’ve been reading for a long time and never commented until now...” or they email you and say the same thing. They exist, they’re reading and considering all you have to say, so what you say ought to really matter.

The verse in 1Peter 3:15 tells us that we’re to be prepared ALWAYS to give an answer to EVERY man, for the reason for the hope we have and to do it with meekness and fear. How convicting is that? I know I don’t always respond to questions that way, but I know I always should.

Just thinking outloud about this tonight. No grand finale zinger-conclusion to this post. It’s just something we would all do well to keep in mind.