A haunting protest song from 1993 has returned to popular playlists in 2018. The lyrics of Zombie mourn the cruel, irrational things people do to one another, and ask, “What’s in your head? What’s in your head?”1 It’s not the conditions of a decaying world that motivate the rage, havoc and destruction we inflict on others: it’s our attitudes and the secret fears we don’t control and rarely examine. What’s in your head, indeed.
Popular culture calls for love, freedom, and tolerance… with limits. As long as we agree on everything, let’s party! But when our values don’t jive, the chill nonchalance gives way to resentment, exclusion, and scorched earth tactics. That is, I love you until I hate you!
In the Kingdom of Light, we have to be different. We experience the same selfish urges and inclinations, but we are being resurrected to a more powerful way of life. When I walk with Jesus Christ, I’m following the man who still commands, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”2 That includes political foes, unpleasant co-workers, and offensive neighbors and relatives.
I will not be animated and empowered by the Gospel unless I drink it in regularly, think about it, pray about it, and keep it on the front burner of my mind. It’s one thing to agree with an idea, but a far more radical thing to be driven by it. We can affirm and appreciate thousands of ideas but are only fueled by a few that we hold close to our hearts. If we love the Lord, we have to hold his truth close by.
Many of the public conflicts and screaming matches of life are populated by people who believe the gospel is a good idea, but are possessed by fears too uncomfortable to think about. We all know this: anger is not a sign of strength, but weakness. Anger happens when I am threatened; my ideas can’t compete; my real motives are ulterior; I cannot say what I really want because it’s pathetic. Someone else must be sacrificed!
For instance, when we find political hated creeping into Christian circles and creating dissension and resentment, we have to stop and ask, “What’s going on in my head?” If the love of Christ is not foremost in a conversation, I have to search for the demon at work in my heart. Am I seriously counting on the policies of government rather than the grace of God? Am I afraid of losing something I can’t talk about but can’t live without? Am I hoping to crucify someone else because I have failed to crucify my own selfish desires and angry passions?
Saints are courageous people who travel a different path because the love of Christ and the truth of the Gospel differentiate us from the multitudes. Zombies are unreal dead people who need to devour other human beings to maintain their mindless existence. The world doesn’t determine who I am or how I respond: my inner life does.
One of Christ’s best friends reminds us, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” The battles are won or lost in your head.3
Lift up the Cross!