0210. Definition of Insanity

Anyone who has read a Peanuts comic strip or watched the cartoon knows the gag all too well. Lucy Van Pelt offers to hold a football on the ground, so that Charlie Brown can run up and kick it. However, Lucy pulls the ball away at the last second, and good ol’ Charlie Brown goes flying through the air, and lands on his backside. As many times as we see this play out, we cannot seem to get enough, and are willing to watch it again and again. We pity Charlie Brown, for he is trying his hardest and is honest about his efforts, but the result always ends up the same. Sometimes we question Charlie Brown about why he keeps trying, and sometimes we question Lucy for always being so cruel. Nevertheless, while we hope the next time the outcome is different, we know that it will never change.

Now, before we say that this can never possibly happen to us, we should look at our culture a little bit more closely. Social media has given us the ability to network on a global level, yet somehow we feel more lonely. We can afford and buy most things that just a century ago would have been out of reach of nearly all people, yet somehow we feel poorer. We are more aware of our environment than ever before and our impact on it, yet somehow we have experienced more natural disasters. Amenities, many due to technology, have made our lives easier and less time-consuming, yet somehow we feel more stressed and pressed for time. We have so many drugs to address whatever ailments we might have, yet somehow we have more physical and mental health issues than ever before. Sound familiar yet? Our culture continues to place the next football out there for us to kick (think cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence), and when we go after it, we end up flat on our backside, just like good ol’ Charlie Brown.

In recent years, a new term has been assigned to this phenomenon of repeatedly performing actions wanting a different outcome: insanity. Yes, the recent definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Although Albert Einstein is attributed to having said this, the term actually first appeared in the media in 1981. And this particular definition did not catch on in popularity until 2010 or so. Unfortunately, the term tends to be overused in most news circles nowadays.

It should be noted that our culture is not the first to experience this phenomenon. Ancient Israel had a very strict set of cultural rituals. They had rituals for cleansing, resting, eating, celebrating festivals, and any other activity that was common in the day. These rituals were based not only on the 613 laws given in the Old Testament, but also on rules rabbis put forth on society, now commonly known as Oral Law (as opposed to written tradition). People followed the steps thinking it would bring them closer to God, but really all it did was keep the status quo in terms of class status. Anyone who did not adhere to the rules were quickly judged and made an example of. However, someone arrived on the scene and challenged the system. He did not focus on rules, but the condition of the heart. He did not emphasize justice, but mercy and forgiveness. And the people who heard his message finally came to realize the repeating cycle they were living in. Those in power thought his message was absolutely crazy. However, as more and more people related to this guy, they came to understand the threat to the power they controlled. Ultimately, Jesus’ teachings would get him arrested by Jewish leaders, and then crucified by the Romans. But his message of love and reconciliation would make a huge difference over the next two thousand years.

Returning to our modern culture, we can see the same patterns forming. Living in a God-omitted culture, most everything that is offered to us is either without God or, even worse, against God. And the end result is exactly what we see in our culture, the never-ending search for something else or something more. Sure, it might provide short-term happiness and satisfaction, but eventually it will leave us empty and unfulfilled. The problem is we will repeat the pattern over and over again, because the very next thing is most likely also something without or against God. Sounds like the modern definition of insanity, doesn’t it? Now if we were to take a page out of Jesus’ playbook, we would break the cycle by looking for something that honors and glorifies God. It would be difficult and challenging, because as Matthew 7:13-14 (CSB) tells us: “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” In this day and age, taking this narrow path will have society telling you that you are wrong, labeling you a religious nut, and possibly canceling you outright. However, in the end, taking the path in coming closer to God is the key leading to the joy and fulfillment we all desperately seek. And really shouldn’t that be all that matters?

So what do you think is more insane in today’s world: Continuing to chase whatever carrot culture dangles in front of us, knowing that most likely we will end up feeling like Charlie Brown? Or starting something different that involves God and seeing what happens? Ponder that this week.

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