My community has one of those " Nextdoor " web-based chat groups. Since joining I have really enjoyed what it creates in building the community and helping us to know our neighbors, but there is a downside. There seems to be a stream that our community is under attack from a criminal element that is uncontrollable. Many post about the crime, burglaries, and " suspicious people, " and tend to go to extremes that would make one think that our community was being taken over. Even to the point that there are complaints about people picking through recyclables. Interestingly, one of the neighbors made a post which essentially stated that statistically our community is one of the safest (in fact, among cities over 500k, San Jose is often ranked number 1), not to discount the actions of the citizen's patrols which help to make it so safe. When fear enters in we know that logic, reason, and hope are often the first casualties.
It is basic human nature to fear. It is controlled by one of the most primal areas of our brain. Fear can be a good thing, because it protects us, and often fears can keep us from doing stupid things like getting in a cage with a lion. Nevertheless, when unchecked, fear can be debilitating and keep us from living.
Like the real presence of evil in this world, we can never fully escape fear. I often see fear as a fundamental form of evil, since fear separates us from God. Once we conquer fears, new ones always seem to pop up, but when we name our fears, like when we name other evils, we can begin to make them less powerful and when we talk about our fears and open our hearts and minds up to a new reality though a portion of our fear remains, much will fall to the side.
Interestingly, God did not stop the development of our brains in the primal area. He gave us the ability to do logic, reason and have hope, which allows us to face fears. When we overcome our fears to let logic, reason, hope, and faith guide our decisions, we allow ourselves to live in a powerful and fulfilled way. I love the way The Message translates the passage from Luke about how we fear others:
4–5 “I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.
The reality that the bible tells us over and over again that where God is working God will work. I know that seems like a silly polly-annish remark, but both biblically and in life we see and can witness to the incredible things that can happen when we give ourselves over to God. Moreover, when we set aside our fears and worries, we are better able to find a real sense of wholeness, peace, and most of all the fullness of life.
Having had a brief time in the south, I remember a story from a discussion around the Lynching tree (the location where slaves were routinely hung) on the outskirts of Plymouth. On that day, in the midst of a service of reconciliation, two preachers had a dialogue. A white preacher was confessing the fear, which he was taught about black people as a child. As he held the hands of the black preacher (both were in their late 60’s at the time), the black preacher began to weep and confessed the same fears. Together they turned to the rest gathered and said “fear allows us to forget that we are all children of God. Fear also allows us to be blinded to the ways in which God is working.”
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen