Friday, January 01, 2010

Love casts out fear

Love casts out fear. The truth is that what is most likely to get us to take the right decisions for our global future is love. The temptation is to underline fear so as to persuade one another of the urgency of the situation: things are so bad, so threatening, that we have to do something. And indeed there are moments when we might think, rather bitterly, that the human race is still not frightened enough by the prospect of what it has stored up for itself. But this is to drive out one sickness by another. That kind of fear can simply paralyse us, as we all know; it can make us feel that the problem is too great and we may as well pull up the bedclothes and wait for disaster. What's more, it can tempt us into just blaming one another or waiting for someone else to make the first move because we don't trust them. We need more than that for lifegiving change to happen.

- Rowan Williams, "Act for the sake of love",
a sermon in Copenhagen Cathedral, 13th December 2009

This short piece is a good read to start the new year.* Archbishop Williams gave this sermon on 13th December at an ecumenical service in Copenhagen Cathedral in the middle of the climate negotiations. It is a reflection on 1 John 4.18a: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear". Williams' argument is that despite many reasons to be fearful, only love can sustain a life-affirming response to the threat of climate change. While I'm not sure I'd follow his reading of Romans 8 in the penultimate paragraph, I think his central claim is an important one: fear is ultimately an insufficient and destructive motive for action. There is much fear-mongering used by both activists and deniers. While fears have a place in shaping a prudent response, only love is truly renewable.
* Though if you're looking for something with a bit more zing this Christmastide, you could do worse than have a look at Kim Fabricius's provocative Christmas sermon. And for some fun, try this caption competition.

4 comments:

Helen said...

Thanks Byron. An insightful look at our world. Happy 2010 to you and yours in Edinburgh. Give my love to the Royal Mile.
PS I told Lyn Searle (from ISCF Conference) about your blog. She just may want to become a Fcbk friend :)

byron smith said...

Thanks Helen. Good to hear from you. Hope your year has started well.

greg and stef said...

this is your 963rd post on this blog - i do hope you'll make the milestone 1000 this year.

happy 2010

byron smith said...

Thanks, I hadn't noticed that. I'll have to keep an eye on it. Should probably be in February or March, though posting may slow down a little for January.