When I was 8 or 9 years old I could have easily answered that question with two words–“Peter Tenbusch.” He was the neighborhood bully and he seemed to have an unnatural attraction to my lunch pail. The glass thermos inside (1960’s era) was usually broken after the frequent altercations. I always lost the wrestling match–I was so afraid of him! I usually told my Mom that I just dropped my lunch pail because I was too embarrassed to tell her that Peter just beat me up …again. You see– my Dad was a policeman at the time and he was my “superhero” fighting bank robbers. How could I ever be like him if I couldn’t even protect my lunch pail? My dad never seemed to show any fear, yet fear overwhelmed me when Peter approached.
EVEN JESUS WAS AFRAID
Fear is common to man whether you are 8 or 88 years old. It becomes an issue when it influences us in doing something wrong or prevents us from doing something right. The bible is replete with verses about fear. Isaiah :13 says “for I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, -Do not fear;I will help you.” Was Jesus (my superhero now) ever afraid? Mathew wrote that Jesus said the night before he was crucified “My soul is distressed to the point of death.” Mat 26:38 He was obviously very afraid as he wrestled with what lay before him, even to the point of asking His Father to change His mind. “Father take this cup from me…” Luke 22:42
Even though He was aware of the cross that was before him; I think Jesus was dealing with a greater fear. He knew He had to endure His Fathers’ wrath. He endured it out of love so that we would never have that wrath poured out upon us. That reason alone should make all us rejoice! “Since we now have been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him” Rom. 5:9. We may face persecution, hunger, even death because we follow Christ, as some do even today, but we will never have to endure what He faced from His Father— His full wrath.
So the question begs to be asked – how do we appropriately deal with our fears. The answer is just as Jesus did, in and through love. You may wonder what does love and fear have in common. 1 John 4:18 says that “perfect love casts out fear.” I believe that love finds itself chief among all the other virtues in scripture. It is of the highest importance and number one priority. It’s the glue that holds all the other virtues in balance. Zeal, justice and courage without love can be very dangerous and reckless. Love is the strongest force in the spiritual realm. It is even stronger than death-Rom 8:38. There are those in the church (real disciples of Christ) that pursue greater faith, as we should all do, but even faith without love will be less effective and may be dysfunctional.
PERFECT LOVE AND ITS GIVER
1Cor 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”. Read that again. This is certainly a profound statement. Love is a greater force than hope or even faith. There have been thousands of sermons spoken and books written about the incredible force and power of faith, but it is this author’s opinion that love has been standing last in line with the other two. I think it is time for the church to put love back in its proper place. It is not by faith or hope, but by love that the world will know that we are Christ’s disciples. “But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples” John 13:34. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” 1John 3:14- It is by our love that we have received – freely given to others which draws men to the giver of this perfect love. Hope and Faith alone can’t do that. In one translation Gal 5:6 is stated this way “So if a man belongs to Christ Jesus, it does not matter if he is circumcised or not. He must show by his love that he believes“. Love is the filter that all things should pass through.
If an amount of faith the size of a mustard seed mustard seed can move mountains, consider the power of Love when it is harnessed and used appropriately. If you have the Lord in your heart, you have been given a measure of love already. If Christ lives in us, we’ve got the love of God in our hearts because the bible says “the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the holy Spirit”- Rom 5:5. As our love increases in measure our fears that we embrace, or those that embrace us, will dissolve. They both can’t reside in the same place. So if I am continually allowing my Fathers love to fill me- there will be less room for fear to reside and this overflowing love will spill over onto others. The amount of God’s love is limited only by our willingness and ability to receive it and then give it away. It’s meant to be shared. Yes, seek after hope and faith, but more importantly seek after and be filled with the Fathers perfect love. You, and those around you, will never be the same!