In his excellent essay, “The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ,” psychologist Jay Haley discussed the logic of the “game plan” that Jesus adopted for himself and his followers.
Essential to this plan was the command that if offended by our brother we should “turn the other check,” accept yet more of his abuse and hold steadfast to the principle that we must “return hatred with love.”
On the surface it seems absurd that this would have any potential for success.
People who are brutal in nature display little conscience or consideration for those whom they perceive to be weaker. They either enjoy the act of inflicting violence on others – or at the least, use these acts of barbarity as a lesson to those who are their followers that if they don’t stay in line, “they will be next.”
Notwithstanding, Jesus’ message of peace, love, friendship and brotherhood has gained adherents among a significant portion of humanity – at least on paper.
In his essay, Haley goes on to describe why Jesus’ strategy is brilliant in its design. To endorse his point of view he looks not to mankind but to wolves.
Like all species, wolves have an innate need to continue their kind. Mating rituals exist in almost all species. Wolves have one that tends to be violent.
Two male wolves, in pursuit of a breeding female, will battle to see who has the right to mate with her. They will engage in a ferocious battle – sometimes taking minutes – sometimes hours. But eventually it becomes clear to the combatants who the victor of this contest will be.
The loser, realizing that he has been defeated, will suddenly lie on his back, baring his throat and allowing his opponent to strike the death blow. The victorious wolf, seeing that he has won, is unable to kill his helpless opponent. Instead of dispatching his former rival, he merely walks away and takes his prize home with him. The vanquished wolf lives to fight another day.
Humans are the momentarily predominant species on our planet. It has only been so for a brief second when viewed within the context of the earth’s four and a half billion year long history.
We have achieved an extensive record of looking down on other species, seeing them as inferior, to be dealt with as we choose. We regard ourselves as the epitome of achievement – the ultimate success story.
We just saw what happens among wolves. We also know what happened to Jesus.
It does raise the question, which of us is the more civilized species?