Cyberball

In his 2014 book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, psychologist Michael Lieberman reveals new information about how our brains work. He says that our need to connect with others is stronger and more fundamental than our need for food and shelter.

In one study, Lieberman documented just how painful social rejection can be. Researchers created an Internet video game called Cyberball, where three people toss a ball around to each other. Research subjects didn’t know it, but two of the players were actually pre-programmed computer robots. The point of Cyberball is to make the research subject feel rejected. At first, all three players toss the ball to each other in turn. But at a certain point, the robots cut the research subject out of the game, and toss the ball just to each other.

A silly game? Maybe, but researchers measuring brain activity discovered that the brain processes rejection the same way it processes physical pain. Research subjects were genuinely hurt, and kept telling the researchers how upset they were.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that when people speak of rejection, they use metaphors referring to physical pain like, “She broke my heart.”

Perhaps this gives us a glimpse into why Jesus chose to be rejected and betrayed by one of his closest friends. In John 13:27, Jesus said to Judas, his betrayer, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”

The Christian faith is nothing if not realistic about how hard life can be. Nearly all the people in the Bible experienced rejection; none led easy and carefree lives. Many of the psalms are about people crying out against rejection and betrayal.

Perhaps, because the experience was so universal, that’s why Jesus chose suffering and rejection as the means through which he would bring about our redemption.

Jesus chose the ultimate rejection so that we could experience the ultimate in acceptance.

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