It’s almost impossible for me to spend more than a few minutes online these days without becoming discouraged by all the animosity, anger, hatred, and divisiveness.
“How did we get this way?” I wonder.
An article I read in the Wall Street Journal sometime back said “to harness outrage is to discover fire” and I think quite a few people, even if subconsciously, believe that. People these days simply love being outraged, neuroscience even seems to back this up.
Part of the issue is that in the moment anger feels good, feels like the thing to do. It overrides all other moral and rational brakes in the brain because it originates from our primordial, original limbic system: the brain center of our most automatic emotions like fear and desire. The limbic system has the most direct links to our fight-or-flight response system, and that includes control over adrenaline rushes, alertness, and other instincts that prime you for battle or rapid escape.
Anyway. How can we get better?
One way we can get better, given that most of our anger is directed at those who believe differently than we do, is to realize that what we have in common far exceeds what separates us.
As Christians, we should know this better than anyone. Each of us, regardless of race, socieconomic status, level of education, political ideology, even religion or a lack thereof has at least three important things in common.
We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
We are deeply rebellious and lost in our sin nature (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8).
Every one of us is desperately in need of a Savior (Ephesians 2:1-7).
Regardless of the differences we may have, these three foundational truths are common to every single person on the planet.
I bet you’re a lot different than many members of your own family, but somehow you manage to come together on holidays and get along. Why? Because you have something important in common. Guess what? Most of us are different racially, economically, or politically but we also have something important in common: we are all members of the human family.
What we all need to do is take an honest look at our own shortcomings before we point a finger at someone else, then adopt Jesus’ view toward those we’ve thought of in an adversarial way. Jesus was, after all, the master of counter-intuitive compassion. He famously taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 5:43-45).
As Christians, we’re called to love those we previously described as our enemies. Now, let’s try to talk the talk and walk the walk by learning to love people on all sides of every issue and focusing on what we have in common rather than focusing exclusively on what might devide us.