February 17, 2020

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” – 1 John 4:18a ESV

Fear…what an amazing, debilitating, powerful emotion.  It’s often said that the first sin was disobedience to God.  However, I think we can actually trace the root of the first sin back to fear.  “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Genesis 3:6a NIV.  Eve was afraid that God was keeping something delicious, pleasurable, and knowledge producing from her.

Here are some examples where fear plays a starring antagonist role.

Biblical examples:

  • Abraham decides to sleep with Hagar after God promised him a son through Sarah because he’s afraid he can’t have a son through Sarah – Genesis 16:1-6
  • Aaron makes a golden calf instead of trusting God that Moses would come back down – Exodus 32:1, 23
  • The Israelites turn back instead of going into the Promised Land – Number 13:31-33, 14:3
  • Peter begins to sink when walking on the water – Matthew 14:30

Modern history:

  • The Germans embraced Hitler and the Nazis because they were afraid of what was happening to their economy after WW1, were afraid of the Jews, and were afraid of Socialism.
  • We put US citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps because we were afraid they would turn on us.
  • The South refused to let go of slavery for fear of what it would do to their economy.

Everyday examples:

  • Not being generous – fear of not having enough
  • Not starting the new venture (business, non profit, etc.) – fear of failure
  • Putting on a “mask” – fear of rejection

Trumpism is based in fear:

  • Mexicans will take our jobs, bring crime, etc.
  • Outsourcing will make us all poor.
  • Democrats are actually Socialist Communists.
  • Without so many guns we won’t be safe.
  • Globalism will make America weaker.
  • If we allow other cultures to mingle in America we’ll be “lesser” for it.
  • [Insert liberal ideology] is going to destroy our country.
  • God will destroy our country if we allow/embrace [insert liberal ideology].

Unfortunately, perfect LOGIC does not drive out fear, neither do guilt trips.  In their fear, the GOP has embraced a demagogue with authoritarian desires, just as the Germans did.  Time will tell how long this will take to have truly disastrous results or how bad they will be, but history shows us that authoritarian demagogues rarely improve the nations that embrace them.  This leaves us with two options: war or love.  Either a war will be required to oust Trumpism, or we must use the weapon of love to drive out the fear in those who support him.

What does this love look like?  How do we love those who claim to represent the God of love and yet according to 1 John 4:20 are actually liars?  How do we help people change their fear of the “other” (refugees, immigrants, LGBTQ, Muslims, etc.) into love for these fellow humans?  How do we help “In GOD We Trust” be more than a motto?

I don’t feel that I have any amazing answers to these questions.  However, what is clear is that using guilt trips, protests, impeachments, pictures of children in cages, and pictures of lines at the border is only increasing the fear in Trumpers and increasing their embrace of their “Strongman”.  It’s time for a different strategy.  We must rise above the noise and instead show what loving the people that Trumpers are afraid of looks like.  We must begin to tell the stories of “the one” arriving at the border, “the one” LGBTQ person we know, “the one” human….  For there is, I pray, buried somewhere deep inside each Trumper, a spark of the love of God waiting to be awakened to cast our their fear.

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