We can be gripped by fear, certainly. It can be our downfall. More than the violence, bereavement, and loss of security, the idea of impending doom can paralyze us to inaction.
I contend for a place to begin: A Christian response is one where “love casts out fear.”
What have we to be afraid of? Neither death nor life, angels or demons, or anything else can harm the child of God. Beyond our wellbeing, loving response to threats and danger, darkness and uncertainty can expand our witness to God’s faithfulness, God’s lovingkindness and mercy.
I don’t have to remind you, I’m sure, that the negative responses to fear are many:
- Blame and fault finding
- Name calling and racism (of all kinds)
- Weakness and not strength
- Depression and “giving up”
- Dissolution of fellowship and koinonia bonds of love
- Hate = absence of friendship
And what do we say of the martyrs and the persecuted in the past and today?
AND, there is a case to be made (not a difficult one) that many in positions of power in our land want us to be afraid. Fear can get people to comply with strict laws, policies. Fear can get people to support any political agenda. Want to get a policy in place? Get people afraid of what happens if they don’t.
I think of one of the examples of fear in the New Testament Acts 5:11. And then after Ananias and Sapphira you get a great fear. “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” And it’s true, isn’t it, that we really do know deep in our hearts that the only fear that is truly justified is that of God and judgement. 1 Peter 2:17. Heb 10:31.
I think that our response should be all about living in Jesus’ name. Even a brief reading through 1 John 4:13-21 can reveal what this “abiding” looks like.
And when I think of “abide” I am drawn to a question. What does it mean to abide in him and he in us? Read on. It has to do with our confession. Then what is that? Simply saying his name? Watch out, though. This doesn’t mean being religious. “Being perfected in love” means we grow into greater depth, joy and commitment in the ways of being his people. Eberhard Arnold said, “We not only live with one another but also from one another. And if the body of Christ receives the Spirit in all its members and the whole body is of one soul, then all members and the whole body is of one soul, then all members serve one another.” In Called to Community (Plough Publishing House, 2016).
Then read some more in this Johannine passage. We come to know and believe (really, into and with our lives) the love of God for us. God who is love and we who “abide” in him are “in this life” together. And we have the escape hatch we need for the darkness, the cloud of fear, that is evident all around. No, don’t worry, don’t be anxious, and don’t fear.
Here’s the word for us today: perfect love casts out fear. Tune in your life to loving others more. Learn to cherish one another.
While I was preparing these thoughts to share the Mister Rodgers song It’s You I Like came to mind. Here it is performed well by Charles Cornell: https://youtu.be/Z40SZ77CHK0?t=939 That’s a worthy inoculation to fear. Begin with loving others and learn to cherish them in your life.
J. Mark Schwanz, Gardena, CA, USA