by Abigail Adams
Fear and loathing in San Antonio (well, everywhere).
Sadly enough, when first considering bravery and being brave, my thoughts turn to fear. It is much easier for me to think of things I’m afraid of than instances when I have been brave. And when I do recall moments of bravery, they are mostly simple personal ones: asking out a guy I liked, making a speech in front of numerous classmates, moving to a new place. These brave moments seem minor compared to my fears. We as humans are afraid of so many things: death, loss of love ones, harm, or disease… even just being uncomfortable or embarrassed. We fear for ourselves, for others; we fear the unknown.
What we see on television, read online, or hear on the radio is saturated with fear. There is violence, suffering, and death everywhere, here in the United States and abroad. We are so afraid of the present and the future that we let our fear of one another curdle into hate and anger. We let our fear manipulate us into an “us versus them” mentality. Our fear puts barriers between us and other people. We withdraw, we assess everything as a potential threat to us, our families, and our lifestyle.
So instead of being brave, we focus on safety: what or who will keep us safe, keep our children safe, keep the future we planned on safe. And as a pregnant woman about to be a mother, safety for me and my daughter and my family sounds really good. Physical safety, financial security, and a moral society sound great; those things sound like things to pursue.
But what does God want for me? God loves me, so doesn’t he want me to be safe?
1. Yes, God LOVES us! So, so much! (Duh.)
And thank goodness he does! Now I know this seems like a point that doesn’t need to be made, but we can always use a reminder that God loves us. Romans 8:38-39 tells us that nothing, NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. Not death, demons, or any powers at all! Zephaniah 3:17 (one of my all-time faves) states, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” So take comfort in the fact that God loves us! He has always loved us and he will always love us! The Lord delights in us, he wants to rejoice over us with singing! Dude, that is some true love right there.
2. Because we are loved, we are called… to something much greater than safety!
We know Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbors. And loving my neighbor sounds really good for the most part… the tricky part is what that actually means. Theoretically, I know that really everybody is my neighbor, I’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan, so I should be loving to everybody, right? Just be nice and smile and try to get along with people? That doesn’t seem too hard. And if I’m nice to everyone, then everyone will like me, and life will be great! Right?
Well… it’s a much bigger calling than that.
John the Baptist says in Luke 3:11, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Jesus takes it even further in Luke 6:27-31:
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
This is not just a call to being nice. This is a call to action, actually DOING GOOD. And while yes, the Bible was written in a different time and in a different historical context than we live in now, and whatnot, but really none of these words needs to be translated into 21st century language. If you’ve got two shirts, give one to someone who doesn’t have one. If you’ve got food, share with somebody who doesn’t have any food. Do it whether they ask you nicely or not. Do it. Do it whether it’s someone you like or not. Do it. Jesus said to do good to ENEMIES. We are called to act out our love to all people, everywhere, all the time.
3. Because we are loved AND called, we can be BRAVE!
Okay, I know what you’re thinking.
Scratch that, I know what I’m thinking (and maybe you are thinking something similar), “Yikes. How literal is Jesus being? Not that literal right? The Bible is full of metaphors, this is a metaphorical call, yes? Because, holy cow, that scares me. What if later I need the stuff I give away? What if I really like my stuff and don’t want to give it away? I don’t really think I have that much extra stuff. Can I screen people before I do good and give them stuff? What if they don’t quit bothering me? What if they follow me home? What if I do good to someone who literally or figuratively stabs me in the back? Am I really supposed to let people hit me? I don’t really want to get punched out, I don’t think." And my thoughts just keep spiraling from there.
Okay, let me remind you (and me) of point number one: GOD LOVES US. He loves us so much that he defeated death for us! Don’t forget John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You can take that to the bank! 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 elaborates,
“‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?’ … But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Guys, God has taken away our ultimate fear: death. Because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, we will live again after we die. We have hope! If the worst thing that can happen to us is to fall asleep in Jesus until he brings us back, there is nothing to fear! Psalm 118:6 says, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Yes, our calling makes us vulnerable, but we have nothing to fear because of God’s love!
4. So the moral of the story is: LOVE. LOVE FEARLESSLY! BE BRAVE IN LOVING PEOPLE!
Long story short: God loves us, he called us to love others, and we don’t have to be afraid to love with everything we’ve got! 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” We can love and give and serve those around us, those different than us, without hesitation or worrying about safety or FEAR, because God will give us victory in Him.
Now, this is easy to say and much, much harder to do. Even though logically, I know that my future is secure in the Lord, it is hard for me to love with no fear. Thankfully, God still loves us, flaws and anxieties and warts and all. And if we are honest with him about our fears, he will show us how to be brave. Psalm 139:23-24 sums up my thoughts and also my goals pretty well, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the path everlasting.” Living out our faith in love is a process and with God’s help, we are going to get better at it every day.
So be brave. Love without fear. God loves us and he has made the way clear for us to love those around us with no reservation. Remember Hebrews 10:39, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”