Choose love, not fear!

15 11 2013

A friend of mine says this all the time.  It’s her motto — “Choose love, not fear!”  And I have to confess it has grown on me over the years.

As I attempt to critically look at my life, I’m surprised at how often fear appears to be motivating my attitudes and actions.  In recent years, love has certainly taken on a more prominent role; but every now and then fear still creeps in and causes me to think and behave in ways that frighten me. 

Fear is everywhere in our politics today.  The left is afraid that the right doesn’t just want to reduce the number of abortions in this country, but rather eliminate the right altogether.  The right is afraid that the left doesn’t just want stronger restrictions on gun ownership, but that they want take all guns, away from all people.  And our elected officials are afraid to compromise too much on a given issue, believing that if they do, they’ll be voted out of office for not having backbone or conviction.  

And things are just as frightening on the international scene.  We don’t hear much about MAD today, but the whole concept of ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’ is rooted in fear, and continues to impact much of American foreign policy, as well as the foreign policy of other nations.  One country ceases the use of chemical weapons out of fear over what other countries might do in return; and another country is cautious in it’s dealings with it’s enemies because it is fearful of it’s enemies’ friends!   

On a much smaller and far more personal scale, we hide from friends and family out of fear that if we’re too honest about who we really are, we might be rejected and find ourselves all alone.  We wear masks, succumb to peer pressure, fail to speak up, choose not to push, and avoid taking a stand . . . all out of fear.   It both guides our minds and guards our hearts, and thus leads us to behave in ways that are fraught with dis-ease.  

But no where is fear more prominent than in the church.  I was raised to believe that if I folded my hands a certain way in prayer, I would make God cry.  I was told that if I didn’t believe that God worked miracles in the world today that I was ‘grieving’ the Holy Spirit.  And, I was told that if I didn’t invite Jesus into my heart (whatever that means!) I wouldn’t be able to spend eternity with him!  Once again, fear was used to motivate me to pray a certain way, accept certain truths, and embrace certain beliefs.  And so due to my fear — of making God sad, offending the Spirit, or not going to heaven when I die — I followed all the rules and learned to be a nice, obedient, and faithful little boy.

But lately, I’ve grown  weary of allowing fear to dominate my life in these ways.   I can no longer believe things that just don’t make theological or intellectual sense.  I don’t want to do things simply because I’m afraid of the consequences if I don’t!  And I’m unwilling to stop being the person I believe I was created to be because I’m afraid I won’t be liked by my friends and/or my family.

When I — when WE — allow love to be the motivating force in our lives, we, as well as though around us, live in much healthier ways.  When love, not fear, motivates my interaction with those who don’t have the same politics as I do, I’m more willing to listen than to speak, more willing to try and understand their point of view, rather than to get them to embrace mine.  When love, not fear, motivates my relationship with my friends, honesty and authenticity reigns, and the grace that others show me, is returned in equal measure.  And when love, not fear, motivates my understanding of and walk with God, my understanding of other religions grows, and my respect for people of other faiths deepens. 

One of the first Scripture verses I remember memorizing when I was little is from 1 Timothy: “God didn’t give us the spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of sound mind.” Perhaps I need to start reciting those words again. Perhaps I need to stop allowing my life to be governed by fear. Perhaps I need to learn to better embrace the spirit of love.

Yes! Perhaps I do. Perhaps we ALL do!

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