What if all of our problems in life didn’t come from the way the world reacts to people, but in the way people react to the world? You would probably consider your actions more carefully in the future, wouldn’t you?
A familiar passage from Luke 6:31 says “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” What the Bible tells us, essentially, is that if anyone mistreats us, we should be kind to them, but people have difficulty following through with this. I don’t believe it’s because we haven’t heard it before, considering it is one of the most prominently and commonly displayed verses of all time. Instead, I believe we have difficulty with it because we have never learned or completely understood why we must follow it.
Here’s what I think:
Consider the laws that govern electricity. There are two types of material that interact with an electric current: conductors and insulators. A conductor will allow an electric current to pass through it while an insulator will absorb it and stop its flow. Anger, hostility and bitterness is like electricity, and people can be divided into two types: conductors and insulators. Conductors will readily store up anger in their hearts against the people who have caused them grief (whether they actually have or not) and pass on their anger to everyone else on their path (whether they intend to or not). An insulator, however, will stop anger in its tracks. They refuse to let people change their disposition and would rather show the world something else in return.
That’s wonderful, isn’t it? So when are people going to wise up and stop being conductors? Well, here’s the catch. Last time I checked, we’re all people.
This is where things get complicated.
“But you don’t understand my circumstances.” we cry out. I don’t have to understand your circumstances, or mine either, for that matter. “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) Jesus was referring to the salvation of mankind when He said this. Given this, I’m pretty sure God can handle the rest of our problems, too. “But our problem is so big!” we retort. “I don’t see any way around it and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel!” Who said anything about seeing? “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7) To God, our biggest problems on earth are nothing, and trying to react to our problems by what we see and feel will inevitably cause us to trip and stumble.
Drama and tension are seen in modern society as a normal and healthy part of human life when the Bible explicitly states that, to the believer, it is not only detrimental to a healthy lifestyle, but is considered by its definition to be unbelief. By becoming conductors even though God tells us not to “…repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” but instead, to “…repay evil with blessing…” because “…to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9), we are telling God that we don’t trust that Him and that we’ll do things our own way. In this light, it’s so easy to see why our society is in a mess, isn’t it?
“But why us?” we ask. “Why can’t everyone just shape up and leave the rest of us alone?” Because “[we] … are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do [we] light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead [we] put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, [we] let [our] light shine before others, that they may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Why us? Because it is our responsibility. What if you had the knowledge to save people’s lives, and instead of sharing it with others, you spread misinformation to others while keeping the truth to yourself? When you act as a conductor, you are doing just that.
Modern society wants to put the burden of reform on our political leaders, schools and church pastors, but this has only made matters worse because we have relinquished not only the responsibility but also the power to enact changes in our lives and outlooks not only in ourselves but in others as well. “[F]or verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20) When you decide to build an impenetrable fortress around your heart as you give your wife the silent treatment, do you really believe this?
We can’t do anything about other people. We can’t change their minds or their hearts. What we can change, though, is ourselves, how we see people, and how we react to the things they say and do. It’s time we opened the closed circuits of our hearts and let into it something better.