There is a lot of palpable fear in the world today. Fear of a brutal virus that is ripping apart entire families, communities and even threatens a continent. A virus that shows no mercy and seems to have evaded our meager tactics. Witnessing news segments depicting people living in fear, fear of touching one another, is unnatural and horrific. There is also fear of a brutal monstrous evil that is now boiling over with unfathomable venom. An evil that is the stuff of nightmares. We are witnessing how monstrous humans can become when locked in man made systems that brainwash and control. Fear is our reaction, a natural reaction when faced with such monstrous brutality by other humans or even by the simplicity of a microscopic killer virus.
I’ve read recently that fear causes us humans to excrete a hormone called cortisol which stimulates the flight or fight response. While sitting and watching our favorite news programs, we feed our fears which produces more fight or flight hormones in our bodies. Our hearts become unsettled, we tend toward panic, we want to “do” something. Some feel like they want to run and escape while others want to go and fight.
Jesus also lived in a time when the known world seemed to be turned on its head. Jesus stepped into human history when the his own people had suffered under a great deal of oppression. Roman heavy handed dominance with unfair taxation on the poor to prop up the luxurious lifestyle of Roman civil servants and solders; Injustice at the hands of the Jewish aristocracy who secretly made deals with their Roman oppressors in exchange for favors and positions of power; Jewish religiosity that caved into the powerful for the sake of self-preservation. The average Jewish citizen, like Jesus and his family, lived under a constant state of fear. They experienced the whims of the powerful all the while trying to survive under the constant strain of religious piety and expectations. An unknown or misunderstood disease also rampant in Jesus time was feared to such an extent that leprous people were quarantined and abandoned without human touch.
There were two Jewish responses to fear in Jesus day in the midst of this chaotic world. One was to run – hide and await the judgement day of God. The other was to raise up a violent rebellion against Rome. When Jesus stepped onto this scene he took neither position. He uniquely spoke of a third way, a new and very different way. His way evoked responses like, “We never heard a teacher in all of Israel like this before.” His way was “The way, The truth and The life.”
Cortisol naturally produces flight or fight responses. However, Jesus message requires a Metanoia experience. Metanoia, a greek word meaning to have a complete destruction of your old point of view, taken over by a very different view. Jesus was saying to his world, “Wake Up!” Look outside the natural response to fear of fight or flight. Jesus was calling for the destruction of an old world view and inviting a new world view to take its place. He was announcing a new point of view – a new kingdom. The shocker of it all was he declared boldly that the kingdom he spoke of was “within” you. You only needed a Metanoia experience to see it for yourself.
Instead of fight or flight – Jesus’ sermons introduce us to a humble yet courageous way of living life. We don’t run from our enemies, our fears. Nor do we raise our fist at our enemies. Rather, we face our enemies and our fears squarely with courage and pour out love – as free and easy as a bubbling spring of fresh water. We stand in the face of terror and fear and say “peace”. We offer a response that is neither natural or rational. This is not wimpy pacifism but bold courage.
We light the world with this third way as it erupts out of a very dark world. This love is there, deep inside of you, waiting to spring forth and be unleashed. It is waiting to bubble up in the face of tremendous pressure. Don’t run and hide. Don’t lash out in rage. Calm yourself, steady yourself, look inside yourself and wake up. The kingdom of God is here.
The kingdom of God is here to rain down peace and love through you. Will you suffer? Its guaranteed. Will you be uncomfortable? Probably. Will others mock and jeer you? Of course. Did they do this to Jesus? Even Jesus was betrayed, lied about, falsely accused, the core of his motivations questioned. Yet his courage in the face of evil was so terrifying to his enemies that they even plotted to kill him.
I’ve faced many fears in the past ten years of my life. Each time I faced fear I mostly wanted to run and hide. At other times, on occasion, I wanted to fight for my identity and existence. Each time, after my initial instinctive reactions subsided, I let go. I let go of fear and walked away with “love and peace”. The kingdom of God is there inside of you. We have the potential to overcome evil. We have the potential to face down the systems of our day with courage. Let us not allow the fear of our day overwhelm us and prevent us from acting justly. In the words of Jesus:
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on the one cheek, offer the other cheek also. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” Luke 6:27 – 36