How do our actions affect other people? How is it like sepsis? And for that matter, how is it like a monkey bite?
How does one monkey bite kill 250,000 people?
Alexander I of Greece came into power in 1917 during World War One and was King of Greece from 11 June 1917 until his death at the age of 27. Alexander supported Greek troops during their war against the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. Under his reign, the territorial extent of Greece considerably increased, following the victory of the Entente and their Allies in the First World War and the early stages of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–22.
On 2 October 1920, Alexander was injured by a monkey when it bit him deeply on the leg and torso. The king’s wounds were promptly cleaned and dressed but not cauterized. That evening, his wounds became infected; he suffered a strong fever and septicemia set in. His doctors considered amputating his leg, but none wished to take responsibility for so drastic an act. Alexander died of sepsis on 25 October 1920.
Alexander’s death raised questions about the succession to the throne as well as the nature of the Greek regime. As the king had married a commoner, his descendants were not in the line of succession. The throne remained vacant until his father King Constantine I, who had been exiled for supposed German sympathy during World War I, returned. Greece went on to lose the Greco-Turkish War with heavy military and civilian casualties. The territory gained on the Turkish mainland during Alexander’s reign was lost. Winston Churchill wrote, “it is perhaps no exaggeration to remark that a quarter of a million persons died of this monkey’s bite.”
The cause of the king’s death is in itself an illustration of an innocuous event leading to the consequence of death, not just for Alexander himself but for 250,000 of his countrymen and women.
The same is true for each of us: none of us live in a vacuum. Every single one of our actions affect other people in some way. In fact, think of your family, community or church like sepsis.
Sepsis begins either as a result of a localised (confined to a particular location) infection, such as lung infection (pneumonia), or as a result of a severe injury, such as a burn or gunshot wound. Usually, your immune system will keep the infection localised in once place. Your body will produce white blood cells which travel to the site of the infection. This process is called inflammation. The function of the white blood cells is to destroy the infection and repair damaged tissue.
However, if your immune system is weakened, or the infection or injury is particularly severe, the infection can spread through the blood into other parts of the body. This causes the immune system to go into ‘overdrive’ which then spreads the process of inflammation throughout the entire body.
This can cause more problems than the actual infection, as widespread inflammation causes damage to tissue and interferes with the flow of blood. In turn, this leads to a drop in blood pressure and stops oxygen reaching your organs and tissue.
One local injury can lead to disease throughout the entire body, and even cause the death of the body. The spread of disease slowly affects all the previously healthy organs and tissue.
Instead of our words and actions causing other people harm, what would happen if we exercised our freedom to love?
Our Actions Affect Other People: Freedom To Love
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” – Timothy Keller
The more engaged and willing and glad and free is your love for others—especially if it’s costly—the more amazing it is; the deeper it is. And so it was with Jesus. We see the depth of Jesus’ love in the freedom of it—the willingness of it, the eagerness of it, the gladness of it. He was not forced into doing what he was not willing and eager to do. Yes, it’s true, he did not enjoy the suffering – we know of his distress in the garden of Gethsemane.
Still he went gladly and wholeheartedly to the cross. He loved us with all his heart. Not a fraction of his heart. Not with a slight inclination,with some cosmic force pressing him to do what he didn’t want to do.
We are now commanded to love in the same way. Freely and joyfully. Because human beings were created to be social and being part of a loving community is a crucial part of our overall well-being.
Our Actions Affect Other People: Why Community Fosters Well-being
The effects of being in a community have a positive influence on your well-being. Social capital is the collective value of all the social networks in a community. This value arises because our networks allow us to accomplish what we can’t on our own, whether it’s finding a job, taking care of a loved one with cancer, or simply passing information quickly. They offer resources we might not be able to access on our own.
Social networks offer benefits, not just for us as individuals in the network, but for the community as a whole. They foster trust and reciprocity and facilitate the flow of altruism and generosity. Vibrant social networks contribute to the public good in the form of lower crime rates, better public health, and reduced political corruption—to mention just a few. Generous actions affect other people in the same way that destructive actions do.
Robert Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone and Better Together, discusses how social capital is directly linked to individual well-being (which he calls subjective well-being) through many channels.
“Our new evidence confirms that social capital is strongly linked to subjective well-being through many independent channels and in several different forms. Marriage and family, ties to friends and neighbours, workplace ties, civic engagement (both individually and collectively), trustworthiness, and trust all appears independently and robustly related to happiness and life satisfaction, both directly and through their impact on health”
Thus, vibrant social networks are a vital part of a healthy community and individual well-being.
However, our social connections and capital are falling in the western world. In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam documents this decrease: over the last 30 years, our participation in public affairs and civic associations, as well membership in churches, unions, and [sporting teams], has fallen by 25 to 30%. And with that reduction also comes a decrease in charitable giving, as well as a decrease in the number of people participating in the political process and an overall dwindling of trust in others.
That’s where you can step in: this community of church, operating in the freedom of love towards others. How can our love influence how our actions affect other people?
Have tough conversations now. So that no one among us will be lost forever.
Be engaged in your Growth Group. The people in your group are your community.
Be accountable to others. None of us are equipped to deal with our failings on our own.
Meet one-on-one with someone. When you can be totally honest and open with another person, you can grow.
Jesus death bought us freedom. Do you want to know more about this freedom? Contact us with your questions.