Seventeen years ago today I was about three months into a new pastorate, as I am today about three months into a new pastorate. I was getting ready for the funeral of a woman I had never met when my house mate, Craig, called and said I needed to come see the news.
It is one of those things that puts a scar in your memory. It is one of those things that puts a scar on a nation and a world.
And thus, as a brand new pastor, at the age of 29 I was left to try and help a congregation understand what was going on in the world.
The world still needs explaining.
Today the world and I are seventeen years older than we were. I have a wife, two kids, and live 600 plus miles away from where I did on that day. My life has changed a lot.
The world has changed a lot as well or at least it seems to have, but maybe not in the long view of history.
Violence is a much more normal part of the lives of the average American today. Our language is more violent, our politics more bitter, and our tolerance for anything not like ourselves grows less and less. We are still in the longest war in US history. My children have active shooter drills the way we used to have fire and tornado drills. Terrorist is an everyday word, where before the only terrorists most of us knew of were fought by GI Joe. Even counting 9/11, statistically the average terrorist looks like me, middle-aged white Protestant male.
We are all so much more afraid. Afraid of things we cannot control or understand or even see. Afraid of the other. Afraid of change. Afraid of
Fear. “Fear is the mind killer.” “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” “Fear, for you, is an intellectual exercise, a method of self preservation.” “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.”
Fear is the opposite of faith.
God made us limited. That is fine and good and just the way it is. Anxiety comes because we are limited. That too is normal. But our reaction to anxiety is the key. We can accept that there are reasonable steps to respond to our anxiety and then take the rest on faith; or we can embrace our anxieties let them become fear and then try to deal with it ourselves.
Like David when he learned Bathsheba was pregnant.
Fear always leads to sin.
Fear is a form of egotistical idolatry where our well being becomes everything, the ultimate good.
Perfect Love drives out Fear.
Fear does not exist in love. We do not fear when we love perfectly. When we know we are loved perfectly we do not fear.
If you want the world to be a good place, a safe place, a growing place for our children and all children then we must put away fear.
Love has no “they”, love has no enemy, “Love suffers long and is kind; love envies not; love flaunts not itself and is not puffed up, does not behave itself improperly, seeks not its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails”
Think about 9/11.
Love or Fear.
No room for both.