Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Johnny Poppin' 12; NO FEAR

 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
 19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." ~1 John 4:16-21

People are always talking about "angst" these days, teen-aged angst, middle-aged angst, middle-class angst, etc. But do we really know the meaning of the word angst? Webster's calls it anxiety.  Famous psychologist and author Viktor Frankl talked about it being a combination of anxiety and anger or frustration due to anxiety.

Anxiety mixed with anger, sounds sort of like two words that "Gonzo journalist" Hunter S. Thompson liked to use, fear and loathing- as in two of his books "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Train in 1972."

Seventeenth Century British Philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed that mankind was constantly in a state of conflict and war because of two primal drives, self-preservation (survival) and competition for resources (and interests and power). Left to our selfish human natures, Hobbes explained that life would be ""solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

Seems like Sigmund Freud weighed in on anxiety and anger too when he talked about how our two survival instincts are "fight or flight."

Fear and loathing, ignorance and hate.  How many of us, when we sincerely reflect upon it allow these feelings to determine much of our decisions in our daily lives. "What will he/she think if they find out such-and-such?" "What if I don't do that they way they like?" "What if they get their way?"

Life is full of what-ifs. But John tells us in 1 John 4: 18  that if we let God's love in, there won't be room for fear and loathing and the what-ifs will be quieted with the calm and confidence of His reassuring presence.

Why do people lie, cheat, and steal? Fear. We are so afraid that we won't get our fair share that we barge in and take more than we need just to make sure we get ours. We're so afraid of what people will think of us or do to us if we're not everything we wish we were, that we misrepresent who we are or what we've done or failed to do. We over eat because we're afraid we won't get enough to eat. We sleep with a partner before getting married because we're afraid of being alone, of not being able to attract another partner, or of losing that partner if we don't give in to desire. We're afraid to speak up about something because we're afraid of being made fun of. We're afraid to try something new because we're afraid we might fail. We're afraid to talk to someone because we're afraid of being rejected.

Most of the ten commandments are often broken out of angst rather than careful, rationalized premeditation. That doesn't excuse wrong doing, but it proves how broken our relationships are, with God and with each other.

I've already written in this series about how fear can lead also to anger, resentment, hatred, prejudice and bigotry. Whether its a fear of having to relinquish or share status or power or a fear that the lifestyle we're accustomed to and comfortable with will change, racism, sexism, religious bigotry and homophobia are all often (usually) driven by fear.

"What's happening to our community?" "They have their own way of doing things." "One or two of them alone are okay, but if you get a bunch of them together in a group, you're just asking for trouble." "But what will happen to our way of life if they take over?"

John makes it clear in no uncertain terms, God is love, whoever lives in love has God living in them. If you still harbor hate for others, you're still listening to fear instead of trusting God.

Angst is a fact of life, but anyone who's life and behavior is still determined by either aspect of angst, the anxiety or the anger needs to review 1 John 4 and 1 Corinthians 13. Believe me, I'm plagued by angst every single day myself. In verses like Joshua 1:9, Hebrews 13:5, and Matthew 28:20 God promises to be with us. In 2 Timothy 1:7 He says that he didn't give us a spirit of fear, but one of power and love.

When my blood pressure gets high and I'm feeling indignant and irritated or nervous and leery, I meditate on and beg God for the fruit of His Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. Some people recite Philippians 4:13 to remind them that they can do all things through Christ's strength.

It isn't easy to escape fear and it certainly isn't always easy to love people the way God asks us to. I highly recommend a book by Martin Luther King called 'Strength to Love,' to anyone who wants to.

Dear Lord,
We live too much of our lives in fear and base too many of our relationships on fear.
We commit too much of our time and energy toward anger and hatred and it has prevented or destroyed relationships and real living.
Help us God, to not be overcome by fear and hate, but overcome angst with love.
Fill us with Your love, Your life, Your presence, Your Spirit, and Your good fruit, so that all fear is driven out, so that there is no room for fear or hate in our hearts, our minds, or our lives.
In Jesus' Name,

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