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Love or Fear?

With Christmas upon us, love should be the focus of this holiday meditation. Love came down at Christmas. Without love, there would be no Christmas.

But I want to think about the opposite reality. What is the opposite of love? Hatred? No, it is fear. We have never really understood this. And because we don't see the relationship between fear and love, the world continues to move along destructive paths.

The Bible makes it clear -- "There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid." [I John 4:18] If a new age is ever going to dawn, we have to learn the meaning of this passage.

The following meditation contains very broad generalizations. As we know, generalizations are only partly true. But in order to paint a large picture, we have to use a wide brush.

The contrast between love and fear can often be seen in two opposing political parties. One party is interested in protecting the rights of the individual, the other in looking out for the welfare of the masses. The first motivation - getting all I can and making sure that I keep it, regardless of the needs of my brother - can be seen as selfish. The second motivation - to create a great society, to do away with inequity, to be certain that no one is left behind - can be seen as generous and loving. If I am in the first group, I am always afraid that someone will come along and take from me what I have gained for myself. Thus, fear separates me from the concerns of others. If I am in the second group, perhaps I already understand that we are all one in God, that God has provided us with enough for everyone, and that it is our divine duty to make sure that the distribution of his gifts is equitable.

Predictably, it is the first group, the fiscal conservatives, who are the most conservative religiously. It is this group which proclaims most loudly its adherence to Jesus and his message of love. And yet, ironically, its gospel is one of fear. They talk of a God who will punish in hell anyone who does not accept their theology. They worship an Old Testament God who speaks of an eye for an eye, but they fail to acknowledge that Jesus, whom they so publicly confess, overturned that law. They are the ones who have divided the world into friend and foe, and who see enemies lurking in every corner. Michael Moore detailed this clearly in his film, "Fahrenheit 911." Fear wins elections and sells papers. Fear also allows the government to erode personal freedom under the pretext of protecting its helpless citizens.

The age of peace will never come while this kind of thinking is in power. It is fear which got us into Iraq. It is more than fear, it is paranoia, it is hubris, now that we know that Iraq posed no credible threat to us. Fear is destroying lives, civilian as well as military. Fear is elevating the level of mistrust in the world. Fear is wasting resources on destructive measures which might better be used to improve the lives of human beings.

The troubles in Northern Ireland didn't stop until someone made the first move to end the cycle of violence. It was not conservatives who did so. It was groups whom conservatives sneeringly call bleeding heart liberals. Conservatives view that kind of love as a sign of weakness. But demonstrating for peace rather than agreeing to continued violence is not weakness. Stepping up to be the first one to turn the other cheek rather than gouging out one more eye in response to the last eye lost, takes incredible courage. That is the continuing problem in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Both sides fear that if they stop seeking retribution, they will be destroyed. Martin Luther King was a liberal, a New Testament Christian, facing diehard conservatives who still worshipped the Old Testament God of vengeance. And you know who won that battle.

Why do you suppose that Jesus praised the merciful and the peacemakers? Why do you think he said that it is the meek, and not those anxious for revenge, who will inherit the earth? The world moves one step closer to the Kingdom every time someone chooses love over fear.

Why not give the world a real Christmas gift this year. Why not analyze your motives, and root out those based on fear. Humanity needs more lovers.

Posted 12-15-04

Copyright: John W. Sloat 2004