Giving up fear for Lent
I have started observing Lent early. The hate, anger and animosity I see around me is overwhelming, and I think at its heart is fear.
What are we afraid of? This is a question I have reflected on a lot this week as my first step in reflecting on my first theme for Lent: Let fear become love. I suspect I may not get beyond this first theme for several weeks.
My scripture for the week is 1 John 4:17-18, quoted here from The Message:
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
Why are we afraid?
We live in a world filled with fear especially fear of those who are different, be they Muslims, people who are LBGTQ, the homeless, people of other ethnicities. Yet most of us are afraid to confront our fears and do anything about them. Instead we barricade ourselves behind walls of hate and self-righteousness.
My friend Heather shared that she had recently asked this question of her small group. As she pondered her own life, she realized that one of her fears was of disabled people. She prayerfully considered what she could do about this and decided to spend time at the local L’Arche community that houses disabled people. When she arrived, a woman with Down Syndrome was making a high-pitched noise that Heather found alarming. As the evening progressed, however, she realized that the woman was laughing. She seemed to be filled with joy and this was her way of expressing it. Her interactions with this woman and others in the community broke down her fear and transformed it into love.
Another member of the group confessed her fear of Muslims. Her response? She visited the local mosque. The imam was not there, but his wife was. The woman enjoyed a wonderful conversation with her over tea and cookies, which are always available at the mosque for hospitality. She was able to make an appointment to bring a bigger group back for a visit. Here, too, her fear was transformed into love.
What is your response?
Read through the scripture above and prayerfully ask yourself: What am I afraid of? Write down the first thing that comes to mind. Think about your fear and the impact it has on your life. Where do you think that fear comes from?
Share your fear and how it makes you feel with a friend.
Read through the scripture again. Now prayerfully, together, ask yourselves: What would I do if I were not afraid? Listen quietly for God’s response and consider one action you could take in response to your fear that could help you overcome it. Is there a way to reach out to the person or community you are afraid of that shows love rather than fear? You might want to respond as a group and recruit other friends who have similar fears.
Christine Sine is co-founder, along with her husband, Tom Sine, of Mustard Seed Associates, a small organization to assist churches and Christian organizations to engage the challenges of the 21st century. She writes at Godspace, where this post originally appeared.
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