Oct30WedOctober 30, 2019
It’s the last week of October and that means three things. First of all, the annual Men’s Retreat will be here in a few days! I’m very excited about the opportunity to relax and worship with the men that will gather from FMC and Morton UMC. Secondly, the end of October means that Daylight Savings will be coming soon and our evenings will begin to be much darker. (I’m not very excited about that). And finally, the last day of October marks the 502nd anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
However, I would guess that many people that you see this week will be focused on one thing – the celebration Halloween. Last week, Pastor Tom did a wonderful job writing about Halloween and I don’t want to reiterate what he’s already offered. Instead, I want to consider the topic of fear.
Fear is often referred to in one of two ways in the Scriptures. Sometimes fear is described in a positive sense. For example, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). When used this way, it means that we ought to show ‘respect’ or ‘reverence’ towards God. Of course, fear is also described in its negative sense – referring to those emotions of terror, dread or uncertainty. We don’t need a special holiday to evoke fear because many of us are easily afraid of very ordinary things like snakes, spiders, heights, small spaces or public speaking!
The only remedy for fear, according to God’s Word, is love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a). If we love and properly respect the view from a cliff, for example, then the fear of heights minimizes. If we love and cautiously respect a Brown Recluse Spider, then we may not cry out when one crawls out from under a pile of dead leaves in the front yard. If we love and genuinely respect people who are different from us, then we won’t avoid eye contact with neighbors, coworkers or beggars on the street. If we love and authentically respect other Christians, then we won’t fear their disapproval or seek their praise. We will simply love.
1 John 3:16 reminds us that real love begins by understanding what Jesus did for us on the cross. He gives us our definition. Since Jesus laid down his life for us, our ‘loving’ posture towards others must be one of self-giving sacrifice. For disciples of Jesus, love is commanded for us to show. Who are these ‘others’ that we are commanded to love? Well…everyone! Christians, atheists, neighbors, enemies, the kid who rings your doorbell on Thursday night, etc.
First Corinthians, chapter 13 also helps us understand what this looks like practically. “Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast. Love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love is not irritable and does not keep track of wrongs. Love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices in the truth” (13:4-6). Love that is securely anchored “endures all things (v7)” and, within the local church, “maintains the unity of the Spirit” (Eph 4:3). Love is a fruit of God’s spirit that is distinctly beautiful and incredibly powerful in every setting (including neighborhoods and congregations).
As our surrounding culture embraces fear this week, would you join me in recommitting yourself to that which casts it out? I’m fairly certain that our world doesn’t need more things, people or events which generate fear. Let’s show the opposite. Let’s do the spiritual work of casting out fear with genuine, Christ-centered love.