Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Fear, Anger, and Loving our Neighbor

Fear is infuriating.  I hate it.

Nothing makes me angrier.

I don't want to live with you if I'm afraid of you.  I don't want to live in your neighborhood, or in your country.

I cannot love you if I fear you.  To the extent that I fear you, I can only hate you.  Any love I may be able to muster will stop at the boundary of fear and go no further.

Jesus has commanded me to love my neighbor, even if he's my enemy.  If I cannot love what I fear, then I have to work on my fear, don't I?

Jesus, in fact, commanded me to do just that.

“I tell you, my friends, 

do not fear those who kill the body,

and after that have nothing more that they can do.  

Luke 12:4 (ESV)

"Do not fear."  It is the most frequently written command in all of Scripture.  

And yet, at the same time, those same Scriptures never whitewash the horrific effects of sin and the damage it can do.  At no time does He say, "Do not fear, because they're really not so bad."  Look again at how He defines those whom we are not to fear in the verse above.

"Those who kill the body."  

He doesn't say, "Don't worry, they won't really kill you."  They will.  At least in some situations, they will.  So why and how are we not to fear them?

The first and most obvious answer to "Why" is, of course, the reason found in the end of the verse above.  "...and after that have nothing more that they can do."  They can only touch our bodies, not our souls.  But that's not our focus here.

The first and most obvious answer to "How" is also not the one I'm going to focus on, though I will tell you that it's based on the verse that follows the one above.

But I will warn you whom to fear:
fear him who, after he has killed,
has authority to cast into hell.
Yes, I tell you, fear him!
Luke 12:5 (ESV)

As I said, I'm not going to focus on that reason.  But suffice it to say, a proper fear of God can help deliver us from the fear of lesser things.

My goal here is also not to focus on deliverance from fear as an end in itself.  We all want to be free from fear, and there's nothing particularly praiseworthy about that fact. We've all seen fearless jerks who don't mind standing bravely and screaming their hatred with an attitude of, "I ain't afraid of you, cause you're gonna burn in hell, you scum!"  I trust that that's not who you want to be.

What I want is to be delivered from fear, to love.  And the verse that pushed this whole train of thought out of the depot this morning was this one:

For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?  
Luke 9:25

Few things scare me more than the sight of an "enemy victory."  I suspect that most Christians are the same way, because I see that fear propelling a lot of words and actions right now.  "They" look poised to win, and frankly, any honest assessment of the times can see that "they" will.  They will get what they want, and we will lose something precious, and things will never be the same.

And not only are we not to fear, but we are to love.  

If we say we believe in Jesus, then we'd better be straight on this.  No arguments.  Yes, hate the sin.  Yes, acknowledge all of the verses that speak of God's holy hatred, and those that speak of a believer's natural hatred.  But don't let any of those confuse you with regard to what Christ has clearly commanded you to do.

But I say to you,
Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you
Matthew 5:44 (ESV)

Even when they're "winning."  

In fact, if we're tempted to hate "them" more when they're winning, then we've proven that we don't even know what victory is.

Why?  Because there is no real victory outside of the Gospel of Christ.  It is through His death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf that we have our only victory over sin and death.  And those are the only victories that ultimately matter.

For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?  
Luke 9:25

We fear our enemies' temporary victories because we fear suffering, we fear having to live with the evil that we loathe, and we fear how a culture that worships evil will drag many souls to ultimate doom.  All perfectly understandable fears.

But darkness has never been able to extinguish light.  In fact, a tiny candle that will be unnoticeable in a bright room will look like a veritable star in a dark one.  If God has seen fit to withdraw His hand a bit and allow sin to flourish, it is so that sin may reveal its true ugliness, and so that His people may shine more brightly.  He's not losing here, folks.  Not at all.  Even if "they win."

If we are with Him, we cannot lose.  We know that, but what do we do with it?  Do we hold up a big "L" with our fingers over our foreheads and cop an attitude toward "Them," gloating that they're losers?  If so, we're losers too, because we've walked away from the Savior who loves His enemies and died to save them.

Who died to save us.  When we were his enemies.

Our enemies are losing.  Losing terribly.  Not just in spite of their victories, but because of them.  They are gaining the world at the cost of their souls. 

So we must not hate or fear them because of their "victories."  We must love them as Christ did...with a willingness to suffer as we love them, serve them, and speak the Gospel to them so that they might be saved.

NOT so that they might go back in the closet.  NOT so that they might agree with us on the definition of marriage, or on our right to Free Speech and Freedom of Religion.  So that they might be saved!

No one ever got saved by being a heterosexual.  No one ever got saved by being an anything except a repentant, blood-bought believer in Jesus Christ.  

No one will ever become a repentant believer in Jesus Christ unless the church shows the saving love of Christ to them.  

And no one will believe in His saving love if they see His people's neighboring hate.

As one who knows the victory of His love, you are commanded to share it with your enemies.  And as one who is guaranteed to win no matter what happens to you, you are free to share it without fear.

No comments:

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin