What does ‘love casts out fear’ mean in a time when we have so much to fear? In the past three and half years fear has ridden me like the proverbial hound from hell.
I fear the rise of fascism, the rise and deepening of racism and sexism.
I fear the corona virus.
I fear people who do not socially distance and/or wear masks.
I fear anti-vaxxers who may waylay our best outcome.
I fear the unbridled hatred of an ‘us and them’ culture.
I fear that our nation will devour itself and descend into the chaos of hate.
Fear unchallenged devolves into hatred. Our primal need to survive, fueled by fear, can shift our experience of powerlessness into hatred. If we find and claim our power through hatred we may survive but our dreams for a better world will be stunted. I feel it. I feel utter hatred when bombarded by ignorance, injustice, lies, and evil. But I also feel how it can make me a smaller person. Hatred has its place, but if I draw my power to act from my hatred I am diminished and the justice I seek to invoke is diminished.
What I don’t imagine when I ponder the meaning of love casting out fear, is that Godde is calling us to love what we fear. Instead, when we experience ourselves loved by Godde, we trust that Love is the grounding of the world. It is then that we are freed to stand up to the very things that inspire our fears and work to diminish us..
When I began to think about this I started at the place important to me: knowing myself as loved. Living into the certainty of Love as the primary activity of Godde, I am freed to act without fear. When I allow myself to experience unfettered love and acceptance I am opened to another kind of power. Unlike the power of hatred, the power of love bequeaths the audacity to act with courage, to live into what Carter Heyward calls justice-love in the world. (Justice-love: justice as the inherent activity of Divine love)
There is being loved and there is being the one who loves. In some real sense being loved empowers us to become lovers. When we are lovers – lovers of our world, lovers of our neighbor, lovers our children, lovers of justice – it enlarges our hearts and banishes fear. It is then we stand, protect, and love so fiercely that fear does not inhibit us.
So love extravagantly.
Love with a ferocity that drives out the fears that keep us from standing and acting on behalf of justice.
Love so that the world we create is better than the one we are challenging.