I don't like Facebook very much. Those of you who are my "Facebook friends" know that I hardly ever post anything, or say much at all. But a few days ago, a friend shared a post written by the owner of the Nightshade Noodle Bar, a restaurant in Lynn, MA. The owner's post had gone "viral" - because in it, she had pushed back eloquently and vehemently against those trolling and threatening her because the restaurant was requiring proof of vaccination for entry. She defended her right to keep her employees and patrons safe, she pushed back on misinformation, and she condemned those who'd sent her hate mail. It was inspiring, and hundreds of people posted messages of support, some claiming they were going to drive all the way from Maine or western Mass just to visit the restaurant.
I was moved by the owner's courage, and moved by the beautiful messages of support. So I added my own message to the hundreds of others. "I'd never heard of you before, but now I love you!" I wrote.
And then yesterday, I heard from Andy through Facebook messenger. (Who is Andy? I have no idea.) He wrote to me: "Saw your post on night shade noodle bar's (sic) facebook page. Aren't you just a massive f*** hypocrite 'love thy neighbor' ha! You're communists, all of you. There's a special place in hell for people like you 'senior minister' hypocrite."
My first reaction was to throw the vitriol right back at this guy. (What a jerk! What an idiot! How dare he swear at me! This is why I hate Facebook! What terrible punctuation!...)
And then I remembered that I follow Jesus, who said, "Love your neighbors." He also said, "Pray for your enemies." He also said, "Forgive 77 times." So I took a deep breath (okay, maybe I had take 17 deep breaths) and then I prayed for Andy. I prayed that he might know peace and safety. I wondered to God about why he was so angry and afraid. I wondered why he felt the need to thrown the f-bomb at a stranger. I wondered if he felt unmoored in this chaotic time.
And then-- I realized that Andy Brick and I have a lot in common. And my prayer ended with confessing to God my own anger, my own fear, my own f-bombs directed at strangers.
No matter who we are or what we believe, we are all unmoored and desperately in need of peace. May we who follow Jesus be instruments of grace and hope in all that we do, as challenging as that is. Let us be gentle with ourselves, and gentle with one another.