Living in the Tension of Love and Fear of God
I used to attend Consolidated Missionary Baptist Church while at seminary—first in the old location across from UK and Fazoli’s where you could feel the wooden floor reverberate under your feet while singing, then in the new location on the circle. Our pastor was fond of saying, “I’m not all I’m gonna be but thank God I’m not what I used to be!” Faith is a journey—a journey from fear to love—Perfect Love.
Our world, as it always has been, remains in need of a Perfect Love that has the power to cast out the fear that hates, steals, kills and destroys. Imagine a world free from the fear of stock market risings and fallings, wars and rumors of wars, and sexual slavery. What would it be like to not worry about unpredictable violence in schools, homes, movie theaters or in the midst of God’s ‘very good’ creation? What if we never spent another cold night in the same house in a world that is already cold enough? Imagine today without fear, not because we deny our fragility, but in the face of our fragility. The scope of these questions seems absurd. Still, Scripture challenges what we see as absurd and asks us again, “Can you see Perfect Love casting out all fear in our economies, international relations, sexuality, society and churches today?” What would those places filled with Perfect Love look like?
Fear preys on loneliness. We see this in mental health. Decreased mental health is exacerbated by being disconnected from others and living in an isolated or lonely way. This never ends well. The desperate fear lodged literally in the flesh of the one that began shooting in a school in Oregon is just one headline example. There are more that never make the news. This state of isolated living—of fearful living—is truly an experience of terror, and only Perfect Love can save us. Believing we are alone in the world may well be the antithesis of knowing the good news John Wesley called the best news of all: “God is with us.”
Is this not what is at the heart of the Perfect Love that Scripture talks about? This Perfect Love is, in fact, the God in whom all things hold together. If we are held together at some deeply significant level, we are all connected in Christ. If we are connected (i.e. not alone), then what is there to fear? There is no loneliness if we are all connected. There is no scarcity if we are all connected. Love is just around the corner. Provision is on the way. The courage to give away what we have induces no concern for ourselves.
Yet, how many times a day does fear creep into our living, either slightly or mightily? We all have times, seasons or moments where fear messes with us. It affects how we see others, make decisions or engage with those we have seen as enemies. Nothing short of Perfect Love can cast out this fear. Again, I ask us all (myself chiefly), what does my personal life, vocational life, and my life together with others look like with more fear being permanently cast out of my life today?
The freedom to abide in and choose to allow this Perfect Love to express itself through us—to bear witness to the fact that we are all connected is always a possibility, no matter how inhibited as we may feel. It is in this freedom—This God who is Perfect Love—that we become a part of the work of casting out all fear. May we live in Christ today so as to literally see fear being cast out of others, whether at home, on the street with a stranger, at work, on mission, or even in the places where Perfect Love seems like it can never go because our doctrinal, regional, cultural, or economic boundaries have deemed these places as unclean—the places where fear continues to reign. In fact, the very fear (False Expectations Appearing Real) that makes us think we are alone simply fails to remember that the word alone literally means all—one. The Gospel promises we are not only not alone—but that in Christ we are all connected.
Duke Walker is a regular contributor to the Soul Care Collective.