Read Me When You Feel Threatened

Fight, flight or freeze. These are our 3 total natural, fully automatic, humanistic responses to threat or danger. While fight speaks of attack, flight (well that one’s pretty self-explanatory — you out of there) and freeze leaves you paralyzed, unable to make a way forward. One thing I’ve identified about each of these responses is that none of them are in fact responses. They are all reactions to the presence of fear. A response requires some intentionality on our part. These ‘responses’ are none such thing. Our bodies default to these reactions, regardless of us, even in-spite of us.

I would like to for a moment suggest something that stands outside of the natural realms of scientific evidence and propose a fourth option. A response that sees through the threat for what it is, that addresses the heart of the fear and creates space for us to RESPOND, rather than REACT.

This response I’ve only seen modeled flawlessly by one man. In the New Testament there is story, after story, account, after account that puts Jesus in an uncomfortable, compromised position where people are threatening, questioning, accusing his character, integrity, morality, identity — you name he was accused in it.

Yet, in each account Jesus (he the guy I was talking about just now in case you didn’t catch it) is never seen reacting to these precarious situations with a fight/flight/freeze response. He seemed to miss the memo on that one. Instead he chooses option D. The unnatural, non-humanistic response to ENGAGE with the threat in front of him, never mind if that threat was challenging his divinity. Or if that danger was those after his very life. He steps into the middle of the mess. He engages in the conversation. Steps into the murky middle and makes it his mission to clarify and purify that which has been tainted. The clearest example of this I see is in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is about to be betrayed by one of his closest friends. One he’d done life with, shared dinners with, spoken life over and invest his life into.

Here’s where we’ll pick up the story in Luke 22:47

“While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. 48 But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? 53 While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”

Peter reacted. Badly. And with poor form. Peter went into fight mode and cut a guy’s ear off. Literally. It’s right there in scripture for all generations to read about Peter’s poor reaction. All the while Jesus is standing RIGHT THERE NEXT TO HIM. Rather than reacting to Peter’s reaction, Jesus steps into the middle of the fight — between the guy that’s trying to take his life, and the one that’s trying to save it — AND PICKS UP THE GUY’S EAR to clean up the mess Peter just made. Talk about responding.

Not only does Jesus engage in the tension, He engages directly with his betrayer. He looks him in the eye, calls him BY NAME and speaks directly to the intentions of Judas’ heart.

I can’t speak on your behalf but this response, the kindness of our saviour, the way he doesn’t react to his accuser, but speaks to the heart of the matter — that challenges me to my core. It causes me to reflect on my sin and ask for repentance for where I’ve fallen short of that holy standard.

What about you?

When your integrity is questioned — do you react with fire, or pour healing water from heaven over the situation?

When your identity is under attack — do you defend yourself and your intentions until you’re blue in the face, or you respond with grace and recognise that maybe just maybe what your accuser is saying to you they’ve been speaking over themselves for years?

When your beliefs are threatened — do you bite back on social media with a list of reasons about why you’re right and they’re wrong, or you do stop, think, pray, consider the other side and then deeply engage in the conversation with the goal of greater connection, empathy and understanding?

My prayer is that we might be women, sons, daughters, that face accusation with the eyes and mind of Jesus. With grace over self-righteousness. With faith and hope for restoration over self-preservation.

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Ashari McGaw

Observer of people, patterns and the picking the principles that connect them. Survived being Struck by Lightning. Pastor and Writer.