I wrote this article a couple of years ago, but it seems truer now than ever before.
Three little interactions gave me a rare insight into life this morning. I say interactions, but what I really mean is non-interactions. On the way back from dropping the car off for it’s not-quite-annual-service, I walked past Poundland in Palmers Green. Four men were sitting on chairs waiting for either some kit, some supplies or at least instruction: none of them were talking to each other and instead were intently focused on their iPhones/Galaxies or whatever they had in their hands. On the way to the bus stop I popped into W H Smith to buy a newspaper. Inside, the sole member of staff was standing near the door rather than at the till. So I picked up the paper, ran it through the self-service till and left. One very brief hello, one ‘bye and that was it.
Oyster cards have transformed London buses, but there was almost no interaction between me and the driver as I headed home. Just flash the card at the sensor and sit down. No destination, no price given no please and thank you.
Technology has been good. Things are more efficient now – Oyster cards in particular are a brilliant innovation. But this lack of interaction is not God’s intention for his created people. Acts 2:46 says “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Of course there are countless other passages about the interaction of people with each other: Christianity is primarily a faith of relationships: God within himself, God with us, us with each other. John 17 picks this up so well. It grieves me, therefore that our natural inclination is to remove human interaction from each other. Of course, that is just one of the things that Jesus came to restore.
So I think there’s a role for us being ‘light to the world’ in this matter.
15 years ago, the shop-fitters would have been enjoying some morning banter, there would have been polite exchange at the till in W H Smith, and the bus driver would have known where I was heading and I would have known how much it cost. Through God’s common grace, technology can be a benefit to society, but surely not at the cost of relationships, however brief they might be. May it not be so for us as Christians; note to self, therefore: don’t let technology ride over the God-given grace of interaction, and may I serve as a reminder of the contentment of even fleeting human relationships.