Love and forgive, naturallyBy Bradley Siebert
Humans can be splendidly humane. But each human has to grow away from childish animality and selfishness, something we probably never accomplish entirely, even at our most saintly.
In groups, violent interaction may escalate. Casual attention to the news makes this seem our human tendency. However, some attention to history — nations generally having replaced tribes and clans — suggests that groups may also temper potential violence.
Of course, nations have established relative order partially through forceful oppression and threatened violence.
Still, maybe all this reflects inverted images of love and forgiveness as facets of our biological nature. “Fight” and “flight” get a lot of attention as survival mechanisms. But among social animals, like humans, love and forgiveness must also help us survive. If we didn’t have affection for each other and couldn’t put up with a lot, we’d never stick together.
We can even see it in the dog that cautiously licks the hand of the person who stepped on its tail.
Jesus never explained it in biological terms, so far as we know, but his special genius as a moral teacher (Christians and non-Christians can agree on this) was his recognition of love and forgiveness as the keys to our living together well.
Groups of us who would be his followers have our work cut out for us, nurturing our cultures in the Jesus way of love and forgiveness. These mechanisms don’t seem as reflexive as fight and flight, but they are more productive and completely natural — and may be taught as such.
Someday, maybe enough of us will have learned.
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