A few days ago I read an article written by a guy who had been shot (you can check it out here http://www.salon.com/2013/08/19/what_i_learned_from_getting_shot/). What was great about this article is that this man who had been shot did not seek to respond by changing his views on guns and gun control or on those who had a different color skin than his. Instead he saw this incident as an unfortunate circumstance that he had experienced. What was amazing to me is that he did not allow this one horrible experience of being shot to control the rest of his life. He did not become some advocate for the bearing of arms nor did he become a racist. His response was not reactionary nor was it of a generalized nature. Instead he saw the circumstances that he was a victim of as a very unique and unfortunate incident.
This really got me thinking. This got me thinking as a follower of Jesus on the Way.
The reality of the human condition is that if we can avoid pain, if we can find the path of least resistance, we will go that way. We are programmed to do so – at least we are as citizens of the Western world. Whenever someone threatens our well being a logical and fitting reaction is to get defensive, is to get angry, is to fight back. Understandably we expect that life should go well for both ourselves and our children and whenever an unexpected tragedy befalls us such as what occurred on 9/11 or any one of the school shootings that has occurred in these last few years we find ourselves calling out to God with the sensible “why?” over and over again. But often we go no deeper. Instead, we react; we react so that such a thing would never happen again. We react with the hope that maybe by doing something the pain and the uncomfortable nature of such crimes will go away. We react with the hope that safety and peace will return, so that maybe, just maybe, this pain would never have to be felt again. And yet is it not fear that ends up controlling us? Fear of what could be. Fear of it happening again.
Fear does that.
And so one horrible incident dictates our lives, our procedures, our attitudes, our reactions. We declare war and oddly enough cause more pain and bloodshed but under the guise of the goal of peace. We point fingers on families, on friends, on mental health, on guns without regard to how we got here. We come up with procedures and policies, we lock doors and we carry guns. We worry about what could happen instead of pondering what could be. We close off instead of opening up. The line must not be crossed, we cannot risk feeling pain, we cannot risk being vulnerable and feeling stupid. We do not look within. Instead we must spend our time looking outside of us for there is much to be feared. Our neighbor could be our enemy who could cause us real pain. We must minimize that threat if and when it comes.
It’s a sad way to live but it’s how many of us live. Avoid pain and seek the good life. The best way to do that is a little unhealthy dose of suspicion and mistrust. It’s the best way to control.
But there is no fear in love. And yet we’d rather be ruled by fear. It’s why the words and actions of Jesus seem so unbelievable to us at times. It’s why we are very good at considering Jesus our personal Lord and Savior but not much else. It’s why we treat him like a book on a shelf. Good to pull out for comfort but good to put back when troubled by him and by his ways and by his words. After all, he’s just not practical, he’s not realistic and he didn’t have a family to protect.
And so we convince ourselves.
But he wasn’t ruled by fear. Instead he loved. Even his enemies. And it worked, but it caused a lot of pain- both physical and emotional. In fact, he even lost his life. He crossed the line of decency and good order many a time. He touched lepers without rubber gloves, he taught women in their own homes, he forgave debts without following the proper procedure, he hung around with terrorists and prostitutes, he gave out tons of food for free whilst mooching off of a bunch of women, he made himself vulnerable to a bunch of men whom he knew would put a knife in his back, he was even harassed and stalked by a bunch of religious and pious men.
What was his response? He did not get a gun, uh, I mean, a dagger in order to protect himself and his friends from his enemies. He did not vow to never forget what his disciples had done to him or comfort himself with thoughts of “what goes around comes around”, he did not seek to exact profits from his bread and fish making industry in order to be a “real” man, he did not perform a background check on the seedy characters he surrounded himself with, he did not look down upon those who had debt as if it was purely the result of their own poor decisions and exhort them to a “5 Financial Steps to God Blessing You” plan, nor did he worry about contracting Hepatitis B or AIDS.
This man was not ruled by fear but love. And yes it cost him his life, it cost him his reputation, it cost him his friends, it cost him his family, it cost him his well-being and life. His love destroyed his very life. And yet the very behavior of those who would destroy his life – who would falsely accuse him and unjustly sentence him to death, who would drive nails into his body and mock him did not prompt him to curse or to take up arms. Instead he blessed them.
It’s something for us to ponder as we follow him on the way. Will those circumstances, those bad things that happen to us, those things that invoke fear control us or will we control them and not allow them to dictate how we live and how we love. Or will we see them for what they really are: unfortunate circumstances that are apart of a sinful world that we are called to love and lay our lives down for.
“Follow Me” are some tough words. But knowing that He laid down his life for us only to pick it back up again for us we know that this way is true. So let us follow Him on the Way.