Reactions are a dime a dozen. We have them all the time to the news, to stories, to friend’s actions, to tragedies and comedies, to world events, and local happenings. The way we react often shows what kind of person we are, though.
Consider your reaction to the following statements, made without commentary:
There is probably a mosque somewhere in your town where Muslims worship in a traditionally Arabic fashion.
There is a group of transgender folks who gather for support and encouragement in a local cafe in your town.
There are several people you know who have either considered abortion or have had one.
One of your family members may be homosexual.
Immigrants are entering the country everyday, both legally and illegally.
The political party you support will probably not make any real changes to fix urgent problems if elected.
What kind of reaction did each of those statements illicit from you? Were you angry? Sympathetic? Concerned? Distressed? Happy? Encouraged? Worried? Aggravated? Sit with that emotion for just a moment and consider why you feel that way? What belief or information is driving that feeling?
Emotions are important, they are a natural part of being made in the image of God. Throughout the Bible, we see that God shows emotion. He is not a being of apathetic distance, but a father to his people. God is shown as happy, sad, angry, pleased, disappointed, all emotions we regularly experience ourselves. Jesus shows these emotions himself, laughing, weeping, becoming angry, and showing frustration. But consider what causes the emotions in God’s case.
His anger comes in the face of oppression, when people scoff at God by exploiting the land and the people. When the poor are not given their wages, and the widows and orphans are left to fend for themselves. His anger burns at those who disregard holiness and the Law, who rebel, intentionally or unintentionally, against what God has decreed. Jesus becomes angry on several occasions, once even harnessing his anger to drive out those trying to make a profit off of worship in the Temple.
God’s joy comes in his people banding together in worship and common cause. He delights when his people show compassion and deal justly with one another. Jesus rejoices when people give up their selfishness and follow his path of giving, love, and sacrifice. He delights in the gifts of the widow and the woman who anointed him.
The questions I need to ask is: How Would Jesus React? When we read through the gospel accounts and then look at the statements above, what reactions can we honestly say Jesus would have at those statements? How would he view these people who are also made in God’s image, who are also God’s children?
Within the same week, I have finished a book and am in the middle of a podcast that seem to work together. The book is titled Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road and it details the life of Mazhar Mallouhi a man who describes himself as a Muslim follower of Christ, meaning he is culturally Muslim (read “Arabic” if that is more comfortable), but he views Christ as his Lord. He seeks to bridge the divisions between Christians and Muslims by pointing to Christ with his life and actions and to point out where tradition on both sides causes more problems than solutions. The Cracked Podcast, which is not kid-friendly, in the episode “How Evolution Made Us Unfit for the Modern World” talks about how our brains aren’t made to handle the amount of anxiety we face in today’s world. They point to how drinking, drugs, and suicide are on the rise as coping mechanisms for the sheer number of stimuli that we face. Consider that some of you are feeling a sense of dread from that last sentence alone.
Consider, then, how Jesus reacted. When he saw a problem that broke his heart, he let it. He wept, he hurt, he shared in the shame of those he met. That was only ever half of his reaction, though, he then did something about it. Then, he let his Father handle the rest. He healed, he forgave, he fed, he welcomed. We see so many problems in the world that break our heart and gives us fear and anxiety. And, to be fair, sometimes anxiety and depression are due to chemical imbalances that need medical attention. Instead of living in that anxiety and despair, let’s do something about it. Whether that’s seeking medical help, donating funds, giving of our time, welcoming someone into our home, or meeting someone we wouldn’t normally speak to, doing something is the second part of the reaction.
Mazhar Mallouhi points out in an interview at the end of the book that “Western” Christians tend to spend a lot of unnecessary time asking about God’s will. Mallouhi points out that if you have read the Bible for any length of time, God’s will is pretty well clarified: justice, compassion, mercy; take care of the orphan, widow, stranger; seek God and his Kingdom; don’t worry, but give everything to God. This also comes from a man who was imprisoned for his faith for over a week in solitary confinement and torture who struggled to see God’s will. He came to the conclusion that he was sharing in Jesus’ suffering and shame, just as Jesus shared in humanity’s suffering and shame on the cross.
When the news comes on tonight and you feel yourself begin to react, ask yourself why and then ask yourself what you are going to to about it. Either get up, and do something, or give it up, and let God handle it. As Jesus says, worrying about it will change nothing, not even change your hair color (you at least have to act to change your hair color.)
How do your reactions to current events affect your children? Do they see that they have agency through God to change situations? Do they see that their only option is worry? How do you discuss the ideas of worry, and giving things over to God?