Friday, February 27, 2009

Departing from fear

“The path out of fear is not power but trust, not strength but vulnerability before God.”

Scott Bader-Saye, Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, 12.

Is it actually possible to fear not? So often, we think that the way to not be afraid is make ourselves stronger, become more secure through the acquisition of more resources, more money for a rainy day, or by hitting our enemies before they can hit us, or hitting them back harder than they hit us. Only when we have either removed the threat, or made ourselves impervious to it, can we let our guard down and cease our anxiety.

But a world where everyone is gathering more goodies lest they miss out is a world that is condemned to perpetual fear of our neighbour, and, increasingly, fear of the world itself that strains and groans under the demands we make of it. The only true and living path out of fear is trust. Trust in the God who provides abundantly. There is enough, and more. We can cease our desperate grasping and learn contentment.

But the path out of fear is not simply trust in God; we must also learn to trust our neighbour. This is a qualified trust, since trust has to be earned, or built, or grow. It is not simply bestowed unilaterally. Thus, I am not advocating a utopian vision that would recommend you leave your doors unlocked. Nonetheless, the way out of fear is showing yourself to be trustworthy and that you are willing to give some small sign of trust to your neighbour. Trust is built slowly as it is given and received. And fear is banished not by banishing enemies, but by loving them.

Of course, this is only possible through trusting the one who raised Jesus from the deadly hatred of his enemies. It is trust in this God that makes the attempt to love even a recalcitrant enemy thinkable. In this way, we make ourselves vulnerable to God, risking ourselves on his promise. We put him to the test, not in an empty show of self-aggrandisement, like throwing ourselves off a tall building to see if he sends an angel to catch us. No, we test him in the same way that Jesus did: through obedience, through not allowing fear to stop us loving our neighbour.
Eight points for guessing the country. Fifteen for the location.


Anthony Douglas said...

I'll shoot for the Lakes District...I loved the small print connection to the post title!

But, on topic: are you in danger of only turning the other cheek a little? I may be misreading you, but is the motive for building up trust rather than leaving the door unlocked self-protective, rather than sin/temptation-discouraging for the other?

Matthew Moffitt said...

Than I'll shoot for England.

Anonymous said...

I think it's Cheddar Gorge in England...

Drew said...

I don't care where it is - it looks magical. Wonderfully suggestive. It could be nowhere ;)

On trusting, loving our neighbour - you have to first recognise them as neighbour... sometimes this can be a difficult step.

Are the hundreds of people who crowd around me everyday on buses and trains my neighbours? the thousands that press in on me in the midst of the city? It can be overwhelming, and so much easier to regard them as, well, them, and not neighbour.

byron smith said...

Anthony - not the Lakes District. And you are right, perhaps I have understated the role of love for neighbour in this discussion. I'll have to think further on this.

Matt - eight points.

uptothehouse - fifteen points.

Drew - indeed.

Anonymous said...

Where there is an other fear arises.

Hence the dreadful politics and culture described in this reference