Each of us has an instinctual response to external forces—we call it the fight, flight or freeze response. This isn’t good or bad, it just is. Our journey is to discern when to enact these responses, if necessary. We seldom think about these responses until a situational occurrence enacts this reflex. Have you ever paid attention to your responses…and why you respond the way you do?
I often find that if someone approaches another with anger or a raised voice, the natural response is defense, that can quickly turn to offense (offensive too!). Once the blood pressure lowers, the more thoughtful part of our brain begins to take over and we ask ourselves new questions like ‘Why did I get so defensive?’ ‘Why did I respond that way?’ ‘What was it inside of me that was triggered?’ These are good, and needed questions!
The last few hours of Jesus’ life is a study, in of itself, of how we respond. There is the betrayal by one of his closest friends. There is the swiping off of the guard’s ear by Peter to defend this unjust arrest and Jesus’ infamous words, “Put away your sword for those who live by the sword die by the sword.” There are the false witnesses at trial and a death sentence for a wrongly ‘convicted’ man. There is the jeering and mocking, the beating and torture, the long walk up the hill to death.
And then, there are words spoken. After being impaled on the cross and raised into its position, Jesus starts speaking not with venom and threat, but with grace and love… “Father, forgive them for they do not understand what they do.” Read that again, slowly. How many of us could have used these words in such a time as that?
The way of Christ is like this. People will insult you, hurt you, say horrible things about you, will misunderstand you, will characterize you unfairly, will accuse you, and will not do to you as they would do to themselves. How will you respond? It is in these real life moments that we have a choice in our actions…we can thoughtfully choose our response. Many will say you fight back. Yet it appears that Jesus’ actual way is to forgive. Forgive and be the person God has made you. Show them the Golden Rule enacted. Heap love over them and trust God is at work. It isn’t easy, I know! Yet it is the way of Christ! And by the way, don’t be the one that does all those things at the start of this paragraph…that isn’t Jesus’ way!