Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your children.
— Sam Levenson, U.S. humorist (1911-1980)
I suppose a more appropriate quote would have been the (overworked) observation attributed to Albert Einstein — that the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing repeatedly, hoping to achieve a different result — but that’s been done to death, darling, and besides, Sam’s remark is funnier.
OK … so Einstein’s definition is still the appropriate one, and I keep thinking about it when I see the way people — including professing Christians — are responding to world events. We try to bar people from our countries, who are escaping conditions that we couldn’t even begin to imagine. People cheer a military assault in response to atrocities against civilians, claiming that “someone has to stand up for the innocent” — even though the time to have stood up for them was before they were killed.
Military responses breed more military responses, people who are barred from or made unwelcome in a country get angry and are more easily “radicalized”, and things keep spinning out of control, like a border collie on a triple espresso.
We’ve tried to defeat Muslims in the name of Jesus for centuries. How well has that worked? We’ve tried to defeat people who hate other people for centuries. How well has that worked? The more we “fight” terrorism, the more we seem to live in terror.
Insanity? Sure looks like it.
The things Jesus really called us to do break us out of that cycle of insanity.
Maybe it’s time to give them a try.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?“
— Matthew 5:43-44, 46-47
“To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.”
— Luke 6:29
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
— Proverbs 15:1
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
— Romans 12:21
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, rather give place to wrath, for it is written, “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
— Romans 12:19
See, there’s a point we keep forgetting. WE ARE ALL GOD’S CHILDREN. It doesn’t matter what someone’s race is, what their issues are, what their faith walk has been to this point. To God, what matters is where we’re going — and that we go with Him. So when we kill someone, even in the name of “revenge” or “defending others”, we’re killing someone who, like us, was made in the image of God.
Think about it.
It’s the great what if? What if we actually applied these principles to world affairs? Given determination to walk in love towards our enemies, forgive them “seventy times seven times”, without expecting anything in return, thousands — perhaps millions — of innocent lives could be saved.
In fact, why wait for some worldly government’s foreign policy to come into alignment? As followers of Christ, we all should be focusing on approaching everyone with true, unconditional love, overcoming our natural fears and instincts.
In fact, there’s no “maybe” about it.
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
— Revelation 3:21
That’s only one of countless promises that, if we act in love without expecting anything in return, we will have God on our side. He will protect us, lead us and bring everything to a conclusion that’s to His satisfaction. It’s up to us to have the faith that He will live up to His promise and come through for us in ways we could never imagine.
One more thing: remember what Jesus tells the blind men who want to receive their sight: “According to your faith, let it be to you.” (Matthew 9:29).
That works the other way, too. If we keep on with our “natural human” responses to evil, we’re declaring that our faith in a different way: that God will not live up to His promise and come through for us.
And guess what? According to our faith, He won’t.