Are We All Animals?

Last night I had the great pleasure of attending a John Mark McMillan concert.

 I like John Mark; he’s a musical and lyrical genius, but his style has changed a lot since the first concert I saw of his back in tenth grade. For me, the most entertaining part of the night was witnessing my friend Thomas. John Mark is one of his favorite artists, and he and his brother Jenks stood front and center, just below John Mark’s towering stature.

 

The one in the plaid with his mouth wide open.
He looked like a kid on Christmas day. Or a tween who just got Taylor Swift’s autograph. Maybe it was a mixture of the two.

 

Thomas belted every word to every song. That is, when he wasn’t dumbstruck. Or so in awe that he covered his face and looked up again just to make sure it was all real.

 

I could not stop laughing. But this is all just a funny side note to a very good night.
John Mark’s tour is called “Are We All Animals?”. Before singing Borderland, he posed the tour title question to us. If the end of the world was happening, do you think you would band together and support one another, or would you lie, cheat, kill – do whatever it takes – to ensure that you make it out alright? John Mark sees, and lives in, both camps. I think most of us do. We are innately selfish creatures. We can act like animals – unthinking, instinctive, just trying to survive. But we also have a great capacity for sacrifice, for community, for love.
When it comes down to it, the question is:

Are you going to survive, or are you going to love?

 This is a very real, very daily choice, and it’s hard. So often I find myself in the selfish, survivalist camp. Cain regularly asks “If I wanna” give him a back massage, posing it as an ideal option, rather than a request. It’s never a convenient time (No I don’t want to! Nothing has changed in the last 24 hours since you last asked me!). It’s hard to love other people, especially to love those you’re not sure love you back. There is a great risk to it, too. As C.S. Lewis says,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Vulnerability increases the risk to be hurt. I don’t like to have my heart wrung. I’ve never really had it broken; I’ve given it to those I trust, and I’ve been hurt a little bit. But I have been playing it safe. Sure, even if I don’t give Cain a massage, I’m pretty good at loving my family and close friends. Most people are good at that. But who are all the people I am not loving? How do I turn my gaze away from myself, moving it upward and outward? How could I love more?
A verse in Borderland goes:
Are we all animals?
Are we all animals sharpening
Our teeth and claws?
Stocking up on cannonballs
Living like nobody knows
They can’t hold on to love
And live by the law, the law of the jungle
John Mark concluded that we’re not going to survive, so we might as well love. Jesus gave us the choice to follow Him and to love as he does. Fortunately, with his resurrection, he also gave us grace when we fail. So we keep trying to love. When we do, we become so much more than animals.
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