I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the tension between idealism and “the way things are.”
I’m a naturally sincere and optimistic person. I want to improve the world around me, and when I touch the lives of those around me I want that to be a net positive. I often make the mistake of believing that most people feel the same—that people are basically good, and if I live passionately, and authentically, with integrity and honesty, my efforts will be fruitful and appreciated.
But there’s a naivety to that worldview that sets me up for pain. We have all experienced being burned by someone we trusted, or realizing belatedly that someone doesn’t have good intentions.
How is one to balance between wanting to believe the best of people, but also being aware of humanity’s baser impulses?
I’m certainly not going to solve that age-old problem in this short editorial. But it reminds me that Jesus also wrestled with the paradox of light and darkness that exists in humans. He said in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
While that doesn’t exactly clear it up, it’s comforting to imagine Jesus thinking about these same issues. He seems to have realized that:
People are basically doing the best they can, we should approach people with the radical empathy of Jesus (and Ted Lasso!).
and at the same time…
People who want power will gain power, in whatever way they can, in any environment they’re in. Commitment to good isn’t necessarily absent, but it is secondary to gaining and maintaining power.
Both those things are true.
So the longer I live, the more I will keep trying to figure out what “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” means. And try to walk in the footsteps of Jesus
Lindsey Abston Painter
Writer and Editor, Adventist Today
20 January 2024
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