Fear is all around us! And yes, some fear can be good. Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger. If we didn’t feel some fear from time to time, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. I am grateful for tornado watches and warnings. I am appreciative we have a terror alert warning system and medical leaders who tell us what we need to do to stay healthy.
Without some fear in place, we would naively come and go in our daily lives. So it’s true that some fear can be good.
Also, true, however, is that fear can be bad. In fact, it can be damaging and harmful. Real or imagined, it can be our greatest enemy. Fear has the capacity to haunt both our conscious and unconscious states. We fear loss, neglect, failure, unpopularity, even our own mortality.
Now there is a common misperception the opposite of fear is courage. This is certainly understandable, and some will make a good case this is true. A better opposite to focus on is love. In 1 John 4:18 we read, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear . . . the one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (NIV)
When we make it clear that love of God and neighbor is what life is all about, we make a huge statement that strikes at the heart of fear. To love God is to focus on Deuteronomy 6:5 which says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” To love our neighbor brings us to readings in Leviticus 19 that instruct us to “live generously towards the poor and alien” and to avoid “stealing, deception, hate and revenge.”
To love our neighbor, to avoid fear, is to also engage in justice. We have many leaders to turn to for inspiration. While we lift up people like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, we can also lift up individuals like Chief Joseph. In the late 1800’s, Chief Joseph was a strong leader in his tribe and an articulate public advocate, speaking out against injustices and unconstitutional policies of the United States toward his people. We have tremendous models of those who chose not to live in fear, but to love, and ultimately to bring justice.
We need to be reminded of this. Yes, courage is important, but love needs to have the final word in all we do. Blessings to you! Scott