News, politicians, leaders, culture – we are surrounded by a cry of: “BE AFRAID! [Fill in offender – Muslims, immigrants, politicians of the “other party”] are coming to steal your liberty and destroy your way of life!”
Certainly, there are dangerous politicians and leaders. Certainly, we are facing longstanding terror threats from both home and abroad. Certainly, there are many things we could perceive as something to be afraid of.
But what of our counter-cultural Way of Jesus? What of the Bible’s oft-repeated “Do not be afraid”?
Our spiritual formation often begins with spiritual disciplines. We have disciplines of prayer, meditation, care of body, love of neighbor. But what else in our inner life could use work? I suggest the daily work of changing cultural and political discourse in favor of the words of Jesus: Do not be afraid.
And I believe this work begins with our inner dialogue and choices about how we respond to sensational media or short-sighted online memes that call us to fear.
Every day, we have a choice to live our lives as paranoid worriers based on all the scary things that happen and that the media sensationalizes to keep ratings up. We have the opportunity to hear and take as Gospel the words of worried / angry leaders OR we have the opportunity to repeat our mantra of faith and take it to heart – Do not be afraid.
When we remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 10,
26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (NRSV)
we also remember we are called to be a hopeful people. Theologian Daniel Migliore has written that “Christian faith is expectant faith.” We are a people of hope, not a people of fear. While the most fear-mongering may see our hope as idealism, we recognize that it is the work and Way of Jesus that makes a difference in this world, from our hearts moving away from fear, to our hope paving the way for the good, hard work of justice and reconciliation.
Migliore continues, “Apart from hope in God, every Christian doctrine becomes distorted.” When the church became the norm and not the marginalized, we have forgotten our call to live beyond the fears (and perceived dangers) of this world into the hope of the coming Kingdom of God.
So, what will we choose for our lives? To be afraid or to live into the hope of the now and coming Kingdom of God in this world?