Follow His lead in facing fear by embracing love | Worship
The most frequently repeated command in all of the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.”
The steady drumbeat, however, of messages from some in public leadership seem to be diametrically opposed to that. Day after day, there’s a repeated narrative. We’re told: be afraid of crime, be afraid of immigrants, be afraid of Muslims and be afraid of the future.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This is not merely an attempt to be reassuring and not just a first century relaxation technique. Jesus is about more than that. He understands that prolonged exposure to perceived threat and unrelenting anxiety weakens and diminishes us. Frightened people lose their virtues and forget their values. We behave badly when we’re scared.
Living in a constant state of anxiety makes it difficult for people to concentrate, difficult to be compassionate, difficult to be creative and difficult to resolve conflicts with maturity, curiosity and objectivity. When we’re afraid, we operate in default mode: fight, flight or freeze.
Communities also behave badly when they are organized and sustained by fear. Anxiety is a lousy way to bring people together. We tend, instead, to act out of our selfishness, anger and suspicion when the only messages that get through to us are the dire warnings and the scary tweets. Congregations, communities and countries start to fray.
Frightened people have a very hard time loving, sacrificing, risking and opening themselves to new ideas, different neighbors and changing realities. Fear sucks out our humanity and drains our resolve to reach toward others with empathy.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know that fear is important. In fact, fear is a crucial and appropriate response to certain situations. When the threat is real, we need the advantage of focus, urgency, strength and the capacity to ignore pain. But, getting stuck in that state of fear, even after the threat has passed, only makes us less able to live and less able to love.
“Do not be afraid” is the most often repeated command in scripture. Along with that comes the most frequently repeated promise; “I am with you always.” God’s work among us is not done. Jesus still moves in and around us, stirring us to courageous life and fearless love.
Facing down demons, standing up to angry crowds, speaking truth to ignorant political tyrants, resisting religious bullies – Jesus was never intimidated. Never. On the contrary, he seems quite willing to bless, heal, forgive, feed and love all those God puts in his path. Later on in the New Testament, John would write, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4.18) Love is God’s better way.
David Parks is the lead pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Everett. The Lutheran church is at 215 Mukilteo Blvd. For more information, go to www.oslc-everett.com.