“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.” (Isaiah 42:1–4 NLT)
A typical nuclear bomb consists of an unstable core – usually uranium or plutonium – surrounded by a sphere of dense metal – such as tungsten – that is itself surrounded by a sphere of powerful explosives. When the bomb is detonated, it is these outer explosives that are triggered. The shockwave that results causes the tungsten to compress the uranium, forcing some of the atoms to split and releasing neutrons into the unstable core, which causes more atoms to split and releases even more neutrons. This growing reaction takes place in the smallest fraction of a second and releases a tremendous amount of energy, creating a devastating explosion.
Many of us are built like walking, talking atomic bombs, but our unstable core is emotional rather than radioactive. It typically doesn’t do much harm when we’re left to ourselves, but when some outside force pushes the right button hard enough or often enough, it has the potential for great destruction, both to ourselves and to those around us. Often this emotional explosion causes a negative feedback loop with our friends and family – each bad attitude feeding into the other – escalating the conflict and the harm.
Too often we act as if the thoughts and emotions at the core of our being – the pieces that dictate how we act and react – are not prone to being influenced by the world around us. Yet we know this is not true, even if we sometimes pretend it is. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 6:22–23 that the eye is “like a lamp that provides light for your body;” when it is healthy, our whole bodies are filled with light, but when it is unhealthy, we will find only darkness.
Because the people and situations we interact with hold sway over our internal world, it becomes much more important for us to intently and intentionally build up and strengthen our interior lives so that who we are in our innermost core more closely reflects the character and person of Christ. It is good and proper when we have been wronged to respond with Christ-like gentleness, even if we are seething inside, but it is far better for the gentleness to permeate all corners of our being. There is still room to respond with righteous anger in the situations that warrant it and against those who deserve it, such as how Jesus railed against the moneychangers in the Temple court, but we must always respond in such a way that we “will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.”
It is hard work cultivating our hearts in such a way that the Holy Spirit is able to produce the kind of fruit that has roots that penetrate even to the deepest part of our souls, but it is well worth it to take on the character of Christ in our everyday lives.