Love and grace in a world of fear

REV DAVID WITHERS

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).

The attack on innocent people near London Bridge has just unfolded and world media is in a frenzy of commentary. Political leaders near and far make diverse public statements trying to reassure a nervous public. Most responses are understandable and try to be reassuring; some are extreme and aggressive. We are shocked, angry, despairing, anxious, fearful and more. We want to run away from it all, and we want to stand and fight. We ask: Why? We want to know who is responsible. And we want to see that the perpetrators are appropriately dealt with and measures are taken so that such crimes do not happen again.

But the overwhelming perception is a pervasive presence of fear. And the public commentary mostly serves to exacerbate that growing fear. It seems that fears beget fear, just as hatreds escalate hatred.

I know I too carry this fear. I know it is in me. I know I am capable of reacting with anger and that I could consider brute strength as the only way to adequately respond.

But as my faith draws me back into the story of Jesus of Nazareth, something surprisingly different enters the debate going on in my head. A different voice speaks into my chaos. In the story of Jesus, the Prince of Peace draws me to a different perspective. It is a way that declares that love is stronger than hate, peace is stronger than war, and life is stronger than death. Jesus points to an amazing grace that loves no matter what the circumstances.

This way of Christ Jesus invites me to break the chain of fear with grace. Rather than fear-upon-fear, Jesus calls me to seek grace-upon-grace. This way of Christ is a bridge-building movement. I am invited to seek community with my neighbour. Even though I am hurt time and again, I am resolute that I want to live in a world of grace and love.

I remember soon after 9/11 happened having this overwhelming thought – “I need to go out and make friends with at least one Muslim person”. And over the years I have meet some amazing and inspiring Muslim people. I don’t always understand them, but I also don’t always understand my own household!

As I reflect on London, and the many similar events around our world, I conclude with the passage I quoted at the beginning of this reflection from 2 Corinthians 4:7-10. And in response to this passage I have written this creed:

I believe that God has given each of us this capacity for love. Even though we hold it in our frail human bodies, this capacity is an all-surpassing power for healing and for life.
I believe that Jesus Christ calls us to travel a different way that breaks the impasse of self-perpetuating fear and opens up signs of new life and hope.
I believe by faith that the Spirit of God stands alongside us so that
hard pressed on every side, we will not be crushed;
perplexed, we need not despair;
persecuted, we are not abandoned;
struck down, we are never destroyed.
I believe we carry the pain of that which took Jesus to the cross, yet in God’s love that pain is
transformed by the power of God’s grace to be an overwhelming source of new life.

 

 

 

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