Boris Johnson will used his speech at the Conservative Party conference and the wrap around interviews to urge people to spend more time with their co-workers after Covid lockdown rules led to an explosion of home-working.
The Prime Minister said, “If you’re going to learn on the job, you can’t just do it on Zoom… you need to be there and you need to have the stimulus of exchange and competition… otherwise you’re going to be gossiped about and you’re going to lose out.”
Gossip is something that we are specifically commanded to avoid by God. The Bible, especially in the book of Proverbs, teaches us not to share bad news – or worse, slander – behind someone’s back with the desire to be malicious and destructive. So, gossip is not something to be encouraged.
However, I can see what the Boris Johnson is getting at when he suggests that we miss out in remote working environments. As human beings we function better and learn more quickly when we are together, in person, having a three-dimensional, multi-sensory experience. In a work context we learn many things by informal observation, which is just not possible when interacting through a screen. Team building often happens informally, as we exchange stories and ideas while going about our business in close proximity to one another.
Isn’t this why getting back to meeting in person as churches has been such a joy? We are embodied spirits and we need to be together to have the richest possible experience of being the gathered church. Think of the difference between watching a film on TV at home, where you can pause, hold conversations, do other things at the same time, with no necessary engagement with the movie, compared the level of shared commitment and concentration while watching a film at the cinema. Even more so, as we gather in church, together we pray, sing and listen to God’s word and express our commitment to him and each other. In these and other ways, formal and informal, we strengthen our bonds of friendship and encourage our faith.
We should not return to church because we fear that otherwise people might be gossiping about us. That is surely the last thing that should be happening in our absence. But we should want to return, when we are able, to enjoy the fellowship of being with God’s people in anticipation of our final destiny.
This is why the new heavens and new earth will be a bodily experience. We will not float around in some isolated, half-distracted state, tuning into to this and that as the fancy takes us; rather, we will be all together with the Lord, physically present and enjoying him for ever.