Love and Fear

Guest post from Dev – Part 2 of our Advent Series

For each Sunday of Advent we will be hearing from someone Becca and I have met during our pilgrimage. They are women and men who have devoted their lives to serve people who live under the systems of violence and oppression. They will speak to us about hope, love, joy, and peace – all things for which they toil. This week we hear from Dev, who lives and works in the slums of India. He reflects on love for our second Sunday of Advent.

I live in a slum community in India. I’m here to creatively share God’s healing love with my neighbors, yet fear can grip me and replace that love.

One way I try to love is by visiting my neighbors in their homes or at the factory. But sometimes I’m afraid that we won’t have things to talk about and that it’ll be awkward. Or, I’m afraid that I’ll be forced to enter into their suffering without answers or resolution.

My neighbors are often sick, and Jesus asks us to heal the sick in his name. At times, I pray for healing and people get better, or worse, or die, or nothing happens. Trusting in Jesus’ healing love can be awkward, embarrassing and unpredictable.  Sometimes I’m too afraid to pray. I protect my image instead of surrendering to Jesus’ healing love.

As I partner with a local education program, I find myself feeling afraid that I won’t make an impact on my students’ lives. I fear that my efforts will be in vain.

Love and Fear Drawing

A drawing by Dev.

Our world is paralyzed by fear.

We’re afraid of losing our positions of power, of being vulnerable to people’s problems, or of the unknown. We do all we can to secure ourselves, building walls of protection around us, muffling the cries of suffering and injustice around us.

Too easily we deceive ourselves by making token gestures of love that don’t cost us much. It’s easier than ever to replace activism with click-tivism by limiting our action to a click, a “liking” a cause, or pressing a donate button from the comfort of our couch.  Although this is important and we need to start somewhere, we must acknowledge that our fears keep us from entering deeply into people’s suffering.

Japanese theologian, Kosuke Koyama, observed that many of the Buddhist monks in Thailand looked more like Jesus than the Christian missionaries, who, although they had uprooted their lives, were still living lukewarm lives behind their fears. Koyama reminds us that the cross we carry is inconvenient, heavy, awkward and painful – that we’d prefer to carry a small, light lunch-box that won’t slow us down, and that contains all our needs, compact and tidy, just the way we like it.

It seems that our fearful world tells us to shrink the cross, turn it upside down and sharpen it into a sword to protect ourselves at all cost. It’s my right, after all.

But Jesus’ gave up his rights. His love left a trail of his own blood from his non-violent surrender.  Criticism and threats followed his acts of love. But his love conquered death itself!

It seems that Jesus used all his power, comfort and security to empower, comfort and bring security to others. Yet I tend to make sure I’m safe, and then throw the leftover crumbs to the poor from a distance. This feels safer. Jesus was sweating blood before his death, but he surrendered to love in the midst of his fear.

When I’m honest, I admit that I struggle with fear. The steps toward love that I’ve taken are small. And God’s love in me quickly gets contaminated by my self-righteousness and by my desire to be heroic and admired by others. But I choose to name my fears and hold them before Jesus, who has faced them, too.  I choose to open my heart for God to displace my fears with God’s perfect love. I want God’s love to transform my fearful self into a person of fearless love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)

 

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