Jesus was a freedom fighter. One of his greatest gifts to us (and he’s given us countless, but one of the greatest of these) is the gift of living free of fear.
John tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. What does that mean? And what does it mean that we no longer have to live our lives in fear?
Jesus said that there is only one person we should fear, and that person is the one who has the power to throw us, both body and soul, into hell. Of course, Jesus is referring to God. The ‘fear’ described here isn’t the kind that leaves you quivering in your boots with a puddle around your feet. No. We’re to ‘fear’ God as a form of respect, understanding that God means business. He means what he says. He keeps his promises. At the same time, we’re also to understand that God’s justice is perfect and tempered by mercy. Being perfect, God doesn’t play favorites. In fact, when it comes to punishing his children (that is, those who should know better), he’s prone to punishing them more, because, well, they should know better. Those who don’t know God and who aren’t as aware of the difference between right and wrong and the consequences of choosing wrong, God is more lenient with. And so it should be.
But let’s get back to Jesus’ gift to us, the gift of not having to live in fear. Have you received that gift as Jesus’ intended? Did you set it aside, not quite sure what to do with it, or did you tie it around your finger or pin it to the front of your shirt so that you would always have it before you as a reminder?
We must keep Jesus’ gift always within sight, carrying it with us everywhere we go. Fear is the world’s primary motivator. We don’t have to look much beyond this blog to see how fear is used to manipulate people into doing things they otherwise wouldn’t do. People can be easily controlled by fear. You can take away their freedoms and liberty like licorice from a baby simply by telling them it’s for their safety and security. It’s been done, it’s being done, and it will continue to be done.
Fear, not money, makes the world go ‘round. Fear of disease, fear of economic hardship, fear of failure, fear of losing, fear of being a loser, fear of being caught in wrong-doing – the list goes on and on and on and on…. There is seemingly no end to things you can fear in this life, and if you forget even for an instant, you’re quickly reminded. Most of the fears are imaginary, though some are real. And yet, here is Jesus telling us that we only have one thing – one person – to fear, and that’s our heavenly father. I don’t know about you, but I’m not afraid of my Dad. And if I do fear him, it’s a healthy fear. It protects me rather than frightens me. I love and respect God, and I know he means business, but I’m not afraid of him. He’s my Dad. He doesn’t want me to be afraid of him.
So that leaves us with nothing and no-one to fear at all. Perfect love casts out all fear, and now we see how that is possible. When the world, which is under Satan, throws one of its temper tantrums (terrorist attack, disease outbreak, etc.) and demands we bow down in fear before it, there’ll be no bowing on our part. Jesus has made us free to fear nothing and no-one on Earth. Not even death leaves us quivering in our boots anymore.
This is what makes born-agains so dangerous to the powers-that-be on Earth – we don’t respond to fear, not even fear of death. The primary motivator just doesn’t work with us. So when we’re threatened to act a certain way out of fear of death, we’re not moved. This is how we stand our spiritual ground. In fact, not only are we not moved, we actually end up praying for the people who mean us harm.
How on Earth are we to be dealt with, if this is how we respond to fear?
The world has nothing that we want and nothing that causes us to be afraid. Jesus made sure of that, with his final sacrifice that ushered in God’s kingdom on Earth. As Jesus reminded us – they can take away our stuff and our jobs and our reputation and even our bodies, but that’s all they’re going to get. Our souls belong to God, and our wills to us. Those are the only two things that have any value anyway, those, and the record of what we’ve done with the grace of time, space, and talent that God’s given us. These are the true treasures that Jesus told us to store in heaven.
The world is fond of saying: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”, and based on that adage tries to dismiss fear as if it doesn’t exist at all. Oh, yes, fear exists. We know, because most of us born-agains used to be motivated by it, just like everyone else in the world. To say that fear doesn’t exist is to say that Jesus’ sacrifice was worthless and that his gift has no value. We know that’s not true. The biggest advocates of the “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” adage are those who also say that God doesn’t exist, that his kingdom therefore doesn’t exist, and that by extension there is no Satan, the prince of fear.
That, of course, is a lie from the pit of hell. Pretending fear doesn’t exist will not protect you from it. Fear is a spiritual stronghold that those who are born again have been freed from, if they choose to accept Jesus’ gift in the way he intended it. Pretending fear doesn’t exist is like pretending the ebola virus doesn’t exist simply because you can’t see it and no-one you know has it. Go to Africa and spend some time in an ebola ward, and then come back and tell me that the ebola virus doesn’t exist.
Fear is real, even if the things we’re supposed to fear are mostly imaginary. But Jesus has given us the gift of freedom from fear, which we should always keep before us, if we’re wise. Never be motivated by fear, never let fear prevent you from speaking the truth (regardless of the personal cost), and never be lulled into thinking there is nothing to fear. There is a whole world of things to fear, along with a whole spiritual realm of evil that could destroy you in an instant if you weren’t under God’s protection. Fear is real, but God’s love is stronger.
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, resist the devil (fear), and he will flee.”
Thank you, Jesus, for helping us to live free of fear, and thank you, God, for not being scary.