Most of us are hurt in our life one time or another. We have been a victim of someone’s anger, abuse or misbehavior. In my fifteen years of ministry I am yet to find a person who has not experienced hurt from someone close to them many times and sometimes even a few strangers. It is only natural from the theory of the survival of the fittest that one would want to take revenge, take action or respond to such experience.
Recently as I was reading Karen Armstrong, a great inspirational writer for the brave, I came across what that desire to revenge means. In the Twelve Steps to compassionate life, she speaks about “reptilian brain”, the one that is still present underneath the more developed brain. This reptilian brain is responsible for the fight or flight response in animals.
We all need a reptilian brain to face danger and our need to respond to dangerous situations quickly. It however is not attuned to living in human societies, meaning, the developed species of the world or for the life of faith. Jesus calls humanity to outpace our reptilian brain with a call to the highest and best within us, to raise our sights upon Him and create a compassion, kind and caring world around us. True societies are based on self-giving respecting all of God’s children no matter who that person is, even our enemies.
Jesus is challenging humanity to grow beyond the tribal mentality. C.S. Lewis says, “Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me ill-tempered; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am”.
Jesus is right when He invites His disciples to be like His Father who is perfect. May be we are all called to strive towards perfection so that we might one day become perfect in the eyes of God rather than that of man. It is when we respect the other, we will restrain from being bad to one another. Religion is meant to make us do the right thing in life. What is the right thing in life: It is to love, to serve, to think and to be humble, says Ralph Waldo Emerson.
According to a Chinese proverb, “He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself”.
All of Jesus’ teaching is inviting mankind to become part of a civilized society of God. Respect, honor and care of one another will lead us to respect the other just like God respects mankind. The only way we become perfect in the eyes of God is when we respect ourselves as the God’s own temple and when we do the same to the other regardless of the sin we attribute to them. When our reptilian brains become civilized we will have found our true heritage. We all may be surprised at the light that appears suddenly in front of us. But I can assure you that we will not be made rats because of the suddenness of life, but what we are inside is revealed in the light that happens suddenly. We Christians need to tame ourselves to be interrupted by the suddenness of God’s light, so that what appears from within us is not rat like behavior, but God like manner of life.
Religion is to teach us to do the right thing in life: It is to love, to serve, to think and to be humble. But above all love one another and respect the dignity of all human beings. Even when our survival instincts challenge us we are to act as Christ did, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.