As Christians, we know we’re not supposed to live in it. We have all the awesome verses to trot out in proof. And I even hear it as the reason behind not wanting to be cautious–we don’t want to live in fear, after all. I admit it: I’ve said the same things myself. I’ve said, “I’m not going to be afraid. I’m just going to live.”
And then I seek out information to make me feel better. Maybe you’ve done the same. We seek the news articles that’ll back us up, even if we have to sift through page after page of Google results to find them. “Validate my choices!” we cry to the world. “Prove me right!”
We do it with medical things. We do it with politics. We do it with _________. (Fill in the blank; I think we tend to do it with everything.)
But here’s the thing I’ve been seeing lately: this is, in fact, letting fear win. And worse, it’s creating a self-fulfilling prophecy situation.
Last weekend we had a talk in our church about the new vaccine and people’s views on it. The resounding conclusion? People are afraid.
I flip through the news or read my email lists and see the same thing when it comes to politics, court decisions, culture: People are afraid.
We’re afraid of the government. We’re afraid of people trying to harm us. We’re afraid of our rights being taken away. We’re afraid of health crises. We’re afraid of losing power. We’re afraid of persecution.
This then leads to a spiral. Because we fear it, we want to be alert–so we go looking for it. Hunting up evidence. We tell ourselves we’re just researching so we can be well informed, but are we really reading things that show all sides? Generally not. We’re not digging deeper, we’re just adding more of the same sort of “information” to our well, often more articles from the same sources. We think, “Oh man, this is obviously bad.” So we find other “bad” things connected with our original subject. We look for people linked to it and seek out other terrible things they may have done. We seek faces to put on it, people to blame. People to fight. And any time we come up against opposition or something just goes wrong, we think “This is it! I’m being attacked for my beliefs!”
Why do we do this? Why do we deliberately construct a narrative of fear for ourselves and then put a face to it? Why are we always looking for (and often creating) hidden agendas on our oppositions’ part? I think it’s because we feel like if we can uncover something dastardly, we’d know what to fight. We’d know who our enemy is. We’d know what to DO about it.
In college, we had to read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, and one of the concepts we really had to work to understand was how EVERY dream could be, as he posited, “wish fulfillment.” How, my classmates and I asked, could a nightmare be wish fulfillment? We don’t want these bad things to happen! But Freud didn’t say we wished for the bad. What we wished for was a resolution to the bad. We wanted it out in the open and dealt with, not living in the shadows, not breathing down our necks, not a constant whisper of fear in the back of our mind. We wanted to see it, to know what it was, to resolve it. This, he theorized, was the purpose of a nightmare: to root out our fears and let us face them.
Think what you want about Freud in general, LOL, but there’s something to that. We don’t WANT our fears to come true…and yet we want to know. We want to know how to fight it. How to respond. We want to see those shadows clearly. We want to be validated. We want to be told we had a reason to fear. Because, see? Look! There’s this terrible thing, and we saw it coming!
But perhaps this is why God speaks again and again about how we should NOT be afraid. Because this sort of fear doesn’t just render us immobile. It makes us act in ungodly ways. This sort of fear leads us to create villains where really there are just people doing what they think is best, whether we agree that it’s the best thing or not–equating what may be false opinions with bad motives. It leads us to lash out preemptively, to get defensive, to get entrenched. And do you know what happens then? The thing we feared happens…because we forced it to. When we lash out in fear that sounds like anger, the opposition responds in the same. Battles begin. Politics on both sides get further and further apart. We all become known for hate and anger and bitterness instead of love. And so, yes, then each side tries to persecute the other. Each side tries to take away rights. Each side becomes, in the others’ eyes, a villain.
We let fear dictate to us. And then it laughs in our face when we bring the consequences upon ourselves.
Here’s what God promises though: Perfect love casts out fear.
Because if I love that person on the other side of the aisle, I don’t have room to fear them. I’m too busy praying for them and trying to understand them.
If I love those doctors working to help, I’m going to be asking God for wisdom and guidance for them, not subscribing terrible motives to them or looking for reasons not to trust them.
If I love that transgender person, I’m too busy praying that they’ll understand God’s love for them to worry about whether my own rights are being infringed upon.
If we’re acting in love–love for each other, love for the very people who seem to oppose us–then we don’t have room for fear.
There are a lot of websites and “news” stories out there today specifically geared toward engendering fear in our hearts. Because then we’ll be swayed to act in the ways they want us to act. We’ll be so afraid of what “they” are doing that we won’t even consider listening to anything they ever say. If they say it, then it must be wrong.
This is not the way God and faith work, my friends. He does not move through fear. He does not move through selfish ambition. And Christianity did not change the world by seeking its own. It changed the world through acts of selflessness, sacrifice, and radical love. It changed the word by being courageous and bold for Christ. It wasn’t about gaining a voice in politics. It wasn’t about avoiding persecution. It was about risking it to reach one more soul. It was about giving even when it hurt, trusting that God would make what we had enough. It was about being willing to give up our own–our possessions, our ambitions, our very lives–to show others that this is what Christ did for them.
The Gospel is too often being drowned out today by our other goals, though. By our ambitions for power. By our desire to be proven right. The Gospel is just a whisper behind the fears we’re shouting so loudly.
Something I’ve been trying to do before I share any opinion, though, is to ask, “Does my saying this show Christ? Does it speak love to my enemies? Does it seek the best for them instead of the best for me?” If not, then I can be pretty sure I’m acting out of fear, not faith.
But we can combat it. We can combat it in our own hearts by focusing on how to LOVE those people we don’t agree with. We can focus on praying for supernatural protection for our heart of hearts, for our minds, for our lips. Pray for deliverance from fear. For ourselves, and for those around us. Pray that its stranglehold is broken, that its strongholds are torn down. Pray that its pernicious whisper is silenced.
We are not children of the night, my friends. We are children of day and children of light. We are not children of fear. We are children of faith.
What can we do today to silence that whisper of fear? What can we do today to show love for those who seem to be against us? What can we do to try to understand instead of assuming bad motives? These aren’t hypothetical, rhetorical questions. Seriously–let’s come up with a list of things. And then…let’s do them.
Fear makes us worse. But let’s #BeBetter.