Do Not Live in Fear
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Triggering fear isn’t hard to do.
It’s a tactic used by advertisers and politicians, preachers and coaches, film makers and authors – just about anyone who has a need to influence, entertain, control, or make use of other people.
It can certainly be used to entertaining effect, as film maker Alfred Hitchcock and author Stephen King can attest to.
But it can also be used to control behavior to devastating effect, bringing out what I would argue is the worst in us.
Hitler rose to power by manufacturing fear against Jews.
Donald Trump stoked the flames of fear against blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, and trans leaders.
Fred Phelps spent an entire lifetime fomenting hate and fear of gays and lesbians.
Entire religious movements and political strategies develop knowing how easy it is first to trigger fear and second to manipulate the trepidatious once their amygdala has been engaged. Fire up the fight or flight mode in the brain and otherwise rational people covet a leader who will point them towards whatever promises to look and feel like safety and security. If, along the way, the fabric of society that holds us all together is unraveled as we eye each other with suspicion, paranoia, fear, and loathing. When you broker in fear, that sort of collateral damage is merely the byproduct of your larger agenda.
Into such a world comes the wisdom of Jesus. He lived a life that showed that the greatest antidote to fear was love. Fear distances us from one another, driving between us wedges of doubt and walls of division. Love unites us in a common bond. It transforms the trepidatious anxieties that fear engenders into the tender exchanges that love enjoys.
Speaking into a context and culture where fear was bred, Jesus offered this bit of wisdom to his disciples: “Do not live in fear, little flock; it has pleased your Creator to give you the kindom.”
Jesus was not someone who just painted the world with rose colored glasses. He knew full well the devices of empire and the fear-mongers its patrons practiced. Empire manufactured all the fear it needed in order to compel obeisance. And Jesus was not naïve – he knew full well the costs of ignoring empire.
But he had his sights set on things beyond the reach of empire. He knew that the reach of the God he incarnated made the fears that empire manufactured utterly ineffective. His mission was to establish a community of disciples who, through committed love for one another, transformed the fear of empire into the hope of a promised realm in which the vision of God’s shalom was fully realized.
For Jesus, that was not a future promise – that realm already existed and made the power of Rome and the reach of its empire obsolete, superfluous, ineffectual. Once you see that, the fear-mongerers lose their sting. The virus fear they seek to spread is dissipated by the antidote that is love.
Jesus’ statement that the kindom of God is already assured was not only radical, it was seditious. He would be hanged for it. He knew that, but he didn’t fear it. It was God’s good pleasure to resurrect within him the promise of a life that neither fear nor empire can destroy.
And so, gentle listener, cast aside fear and live in love. Turn your heart to the pleasure of a redeeming God who assures your place in God’s kindom is secure. And may you then know the joy that comes from a life without fear on this, our journey Into the Mystic.