There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
- 1 John 4:18 ESV
Fear is a natural element of the human condition.
It is easy to utter the words “fear not,” but it is much more challenging to live out of an ethos that actually “fears not.” We are quick to turn fear into a Golden Calf, a Golden Calf that its flawed priests say “worship and honor the God of Fear, because that God feeds a natural element of your humanness.” As I said, it is after all a natural element of the human condition and wants to be fed.
The Star Wars fictional character Yoda sees fear as leading to darkness in our souls: “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” Jedi Master Yoda doesn’t say “a path” he says “the path.” That is pretty absolute: “the path.” Jedi Master Dietrich Bonhoeffer is equally absolute calling fear “the archenemy itself … crouch[ing] in people’s hearts.” Again, the article is definite: the.
I grew up in a Christian denomination that, I felt, operated from fear. Too often the theology was fire and brimstone, turn or burn. The overarching approach was often to use fear to rally us away from the ‘dark side.’ I remember far fewer sermons on the idea of love being a superior, or at least an equal, countervailing, force against fear. Instead of trying to remind us of the force of perfect love, and bringing us to that, fear of hell or damnation was very often the key lens by which we were led to see the force of Jesus.
Much of what drew me to John Wesley and the People Called Methodists is the idea of love made visible in Jesus. In the First Letter of John, we see this idea about striving towards perfection in love, because it leads to our fears, our natural human condition, being cast out. Cast out is the same phrase used to describe overcoming demonic possession.
If fear is ‘The path to the dark side” and “The archenemy,” Christ is “The” force that leads us to perfection in love. I pray this is “The” gift you need in this season of anticipation.
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”
- John 14:27
Selah, Pastor Dennis