In Scripture, encounter with God
typically leads to the same reassuring word,
“Do not be afraid!”
And yet we live in a world and with religions,
absolutely inundated with fear—
in a reality in which fear is manipulated and exploited
to recruit and motivate—
to divide and isolate,
in which encounter with followers of God
too often leads to the increase of fear,
and in which far too many do not know
the experience of religion at all
apart from a not always named,
but pervasively present,
deep, profound fear.
Religion should do away with fear.
Religion should not exploit fear.
Religion should not affirm fear to ensure obedience.
Religion should not stoke fear in so-called righteous anger—
should not sublimate it into judgment of and aggression toward
but cast it out.
Religion that doesn’t
is not of God—
not of the God who consistently said, “Do not be afraid”—
not of the God who is perfect love
that … yes, casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
And so discipleship
to live and be without fear—
not necessarily without fearful realities, you understand,
but without fear—
perhaps especially amidst,
so much that’s truly scary.
“Do not be afraid.”
Now that’s gospel;
that’s good news!
Not for us to tell others though,
but good news we are to incarnate.
So how do we live not afraid
in a scary world?
We live as those who turn to God
(not as those who talk about turning to God)
but those who do turn to God—
who identify—who name our particular fears
and then relinquish them to God—
juxtaposing them with the love and presence of God.
So we live as those who do not allow ourselves
to be led or pushed by our fears,
and never give in to the false affirmation
that would lead us to think that our fears are lessened
by making others more afraid—
to think that the world can be made less scary for us
by making it scarier for others.