Yesterday, someone blew up the finish line of the Boston Marathon. What once was a foreign thought – the idea that anyone would dare attack our country and its citizens – has become commonplace. Once again we turn on the news, or log on to our favorite website, and we see images of horror, bloodshed, chaos and fear. People rush to speculate; people rush to pontificate; people rush to say something about the events of the day because that’s what we’re trained to do. And amid all of this rushing and saying and thinking and debating, one thing becomes as crystal clear:
Fear is our native tongue.
We speak fear fluently. We are well-versed in the hushed tones of terror. We flawlessly recite the levels of warning, the various ethereal connections that may or may not be behind this bombing or that shooting. We can converse the existence and depth of human depravity and violence with the best of them. It is as natural to us now as breathing, and it’s been this way a long time.
Sure, the outpouring of violence over the past two decades seems staggering, but the vocabulary of fear was ingrained long before Oklahoma City, long before Columbine, long before the towers fell. We began speaking fear when someone realized it was a great way to sell products. We began speaking fear when someone realized it was a great way to get someone to walk an aisle. We began speaking fear when we realized that the single greatest weapon in the hands of fallen men is the uncertainty of this life and our place it.
We began speaking fear in Eden. And we’ve not stopped since.
It sounds hyperbolic, doesn’t it? I’m taking things over the top to make a point, aren’t I? No. This is the human experience – we live in fear. Fear that our lives will be too short. Fear that our lives will be too long. Fear that our lives will be meaningless. Fear that our shampoo isn’t doing its job, fear that our car says the wrong thing about us, fear that our jeans make us look fat, fear that our ice cream is made from hormonally charged milk. We worry about everything from our choice in toothpaste to our choice in partners; from where we live to where we vacation; we are afraid, either consciously or subconsciously, for almost every waking moment of our lives.
And when things blow up, when bad things happen, we no longer truly sense that they are aberrations; we no longer believe that the good guys will find the bad guys and the good guys will win; we’ve been conditioned by fear to believe that there’s more to the story, that the rabbit hole runs deeper, that sometimes the bad guys not only win, they win big. We feel that way because that’s what we think of the world. We live in fear, and we follow it blindly.
But what about the people who courageously ran into the face of danger yesterday? What of the brave men and women, both in and out of uniform, who put themselves in harm’s way to bring order into the chaos, to shine the light of hope in the midst of the smoke and rubble? We point to them and say, “They weren’t afraid! They refute your point!”, only they don’t; they actually make us more keenly aware of how steeped we are in fear, because their bravery is seen as exceptional – which means that it’s against the grain. Which means that the grain is to run away in fear, which is exactly what I’m suggesting we’re conditioned to do.
I mean, look at the lives we’ve willingly surrendered to: we have less freedom now than ever before, and we’re okay with it because we’re afraid of the alternative. We’re okay with a government that can tap our phones and search our homes and send unmanned drones over our heads because they protect us. We’re afraid of what’s out there so we’ll take the devil we do know over the devil we don’t, and we’ll hope that things don’t go south. The illusion of protection is now our greatest security, despite the fact that the world keeps rupturing that illusion with evidence that it doesn’t exist.
Fear owns us. Lock, stock, and double-barreled shotgun.
What’s the alternative, you ask? What choice do we have but to live in – embrace – our fears and do what we can to mitigate them?
We choose to be free. We choose to let go of the things of this world, the things that are temporary and always passing away from us, and grab hold of the one thing that is eternal and never changes. We choose Christ and His Kingdom. We choose the infinite, immutable God and we rest in Him. We commit ourselves to His character, His goodness, His love, His mercy, and we drive out the fears that consume us and we learn a new language.
Hope. Not the stuff of dreams, not the wishful musings of an uncertain people, but the confident assurance that what He says is, and always will be.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Because fear has to do with punishment, with punitive measures, with loss. We fear losing the things around us because those things are temporary – our fear is not meant to the posture of our lives, but the signpost that points us to the existence of the Perfect Love that gives us the certainty, the security, we all crave. We are not meant to embrace fear; it is not meant to be native to our souls; it was and is always meant to be foreign to us, a discomfort that we shed when we turn to God and Christ.
So let’s shed it. Let’s lay aside our fears. I’m not suggesting we live as Pollyannas, but we cannot live as cowards. If we wish to conquer evil, then we begin by recognizing it has already been defeated. If we wish to slay fear, then we begin by embracing the One who has already slain it.
Today, as our nation continues to exhort its citizens to pray for Boston, let us really do so. Only let us stop to consider exactly to whom we’re praying, and let us not stop with mere platitudes for healing and restoration, but instead let us be bold and pray for the final eradication of the fear and evil that surrounds us. Let us pray that His “kingdom come, [His] will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
And let us agree with the Apostle John: “Even so Lord Jesus, come.”