Reactions of the Brain

Repent ( think differently; change your mind, regretting your sins and changing your conduct), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Mat 3:2

Our Brain

There is a part in our brain that is responsible for our basic emotions called the amygdala. Actually, there are two of them. It is linked to fear and pleasure. It is one of the first parts of the brain to react to situations and plays the major role in fight or flight.

It takes a whole while after the amygdalae have decided upon their reaction and have signalled to let loose the according hormone, like adrenaline, that the frontal lobe kicks in. That is the rational part of our brain.

One could say that the amygdalae are what we call the heart, others call the belly or the kidneys: the centre of affection and fear, anxiety and love. At least the physical part that manifest as butterflies in our stomach or a sinking heart.

Because they are responsible for arousal of all kinds, we tend to react to things more and like things more that have the amygdalae firing.

Bitter, sour, hot have been tastes to signal poison. They still bring forth an according reaction, but the frontal lobe signals back that all is OK. That modern man conquered most dangers of old. The same with roller coasters. Deadly shaking tamed by technology.

This is where our preference for bad news comes from. Good news just does not bring the same kick.

Our Reaction

Could it be that we therefore tend to understand the bible the way we do? We tend to only hear the bad news, apart from the overarching good news that Jesus died for us, that is.

The bible tells us that in the world, darkness and light are going to grow. We hear the part about darkness and construct a whole interpretation of future and end times around this. It includes a church that is no answer to the world, but for some an interlude between two Jewish ages, for most a people that vanishes when it gets really bad.

We connect the news we hear with those dark pictures of the future, and every bad person of some stature, and some good meaning people whose beliefs are not congruent with ours, become the antichrist. Technological breakthroughs become embodiments of those evil signs and shadows. 666

Antichrist, a term only used in the letters of John to depict former believers or church goers that turned against Christ. There are many of them already in John’s days.

This tickles our amygdalae. It brings us chills, and in a very strange way makes us feel good.

The Situation

When we look at our world, there are so many positive things to see.

We arguably live in the time with the least wars going on in all of human history. Within the last century, many have died of wars and diseases, but still we managed to bring down child death by 90% and maternal mortality by 99%, doubled the expected life span, doubled average income in the first world and tripled it elsewhere (in buying power).

Morally, we seem worse than ever. But let me tell you: man has lived in sin since the garden. Sometimes it was more obvious, sometimes more hidden.

The Alternative

This alternative view of seeing the light and the good seems boring. But far from it.

The alternative talks of a beautiful church, a bride without spot nor wrinkle. A church that the gates of hell will not prevail over. A church that is the greatest thing in the earth.

A church that has answers for this world. A people that God still trusts in. He entrusted this earth to us in the garden, and never took it back. It is his, as the Psalms tell us, but we are his stewards. We are to take care of it, and bring it back into the kingdom of God. This is the goal: that he may live in our midst on this earth, in this universe.

The Consequence

I am not naive. There are problems in this world, and darkness really abounds. But focussing on the problems never solved anything, focussing on the solutions did. In order to be an answer to a dying world, we need to believe in the solution. And we need to trust God’s plan: he is working through us.

If the church is the answer for this world, then several excuses just went out of the door:

  • Jesus will come back and do the job
  • why even invest as it will be over soon anyway
  • darkness is growing, let’s do some rearguard action

If the church is the answer for this world, let’s repent, think differently, change our mind and let’s take action.

The Action Step

First step: let’s define the great challenges.

This is what I would love to do together with you. Define the greatest challenges for this world. By that I do not mean a list of ways the church is challenged today, but a list of what needs to be changed. And please, don’t put it down in a negative way. Don’t tell me that there have to be less abortions. Tell me that there has to be a greater appreciation of life, measured by fewer abortions amongst other criteria in the long run.

But don’t think morally only either. Think technology. Think science. Think medicine. Think.

For further reading about this verse, go here.

I am so excited to hear from you. Let it come…