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August 10, 2019

by Robert Barnes

America is in a dark place right now. The problem is not so much that we are afraid of our leaders (though many people are and that is never a good thing) but that we are afraid of one another and that our angry political divisions are making us even more afraid.

How do people typically respond to such ever-growing fears? Roughly a hundred years ago Walter Bradford Cannon noted that when animals are in a state of hyper-arousal or acute stress, generally because their lives are threatened, a cascade of hormones is produced that prepares the animal to either run away or turn and fight.

This tendency has been termed “The fight or flight response” and it is found not only in dogs and cats but in human beings. It is evidenced every time we march in anger, attack our enemies or self-segregate into gated communities or suburbs to escape our fears (Almost everybody does that if they can).

Is there anything we can do? Chris Voss is a former top FBI hostage negotiator and he claims that there is a third option. We can choose to fight, we can choose to run away, or we can choose to try to make friends with those who frighten us.

Making friends with those we differ with is not easy work and thus it is not surprising that many people don’t even try and when they do try they do not always succeed. Nevertheless if we are truly Christians this is something we do. This is because although we make all kinds of excuses, Jesus was ruthlessly frank and realistic how about how important the “love thing” is. Remember, he once said:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So being a Christian does not mean you will like everyone. In fact Jesus seemed to assume we would have enemies. He didn’t tell us to deny their existence; instead he commanded us to love them with the promise that doing so would change us so that we become like our heavenly Father.

If you need some practice at this may I commend to you becoming a regular worshiper. Mount Oak Fellowship of the UMC will gladly welcome you, but we are far from the only church in the world. The great thing about church is that you will meet people who you do like and others… who will give you the chance to become more like your heavenly Father. Either way, God is there and Christ is risen.

The photograph above is the work of Peretz Partensky…/File:This_was_a_timely_capt…

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