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Beyond Our Fears

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Have we allowed our fears rather than God’s love to drive our politics?

As I write this, the hearts of many Banner readers are troubled by the political unrest in the United States and the horrific mosque shooting in Canada. Regardless of our political leanings, these events should make us reflect on how to love our neighbors—including refugees, citizens, Christians, Muslims, and the unborn. But the North American church is divided on how best to do this collectively. 

Some Christians have felt vilified, misunderstood, and marginalized over the past eight years. And they feel they are being vilified again for their pro-life stance in voting for the new president. Other Christians feel hurt by the victory of a person they regard as a symbol of misogyny and racism. And they are taking their protest to the streets. Still others are unable to make sense of it all. These tensions are dividing Christian Reformed families across the continent.

Can we acknowledge there is hurt and pain all around? Can we, even in disagreement, be gracious to each other? I know there are lives in jeopardy—the unborn, refugees, and others—and that creates a sense of urgency and angst. All lives, in wombs or in war-torn fields, are sacred. This is why it’s so hard to speak into this. But I think we need to pause, for the long-term sake of those lives, as much as for our own spiritual lives.

I believe deep fears are underlying our activism, arguments and, yes, politics, on all sides. And our anger may be masking our fears—the “fight” in our fight-or-flight response. I believe we—conservative, liberal or neither—need to honestly and deeply examine our hearts. Can we name our fears?

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” said Jesus, “for they will be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9). But God’s peace is not simply a ceasefire. The original Hebrew concept of peace is shalom, in which everything flourishes under God’s love. Shalom-making needs God’s love, God’s work, and ours, requiring time and trust. And shalom-making cannot be done out of fear because fear causes us to divide the world into “us” and “them,” into friends and enemies. “When peacemaking is based on fear,” wrote Henri Nouwen, “it is not much different from war making” (Seeds of Hope). In our zeal for defending various causes—for refugees, for the unborn, for the poor, for national security, for women, for people of color—have we inadvertently turned our efforts into war making? Have we relied on the weapons of the world in our efforts at furthering God’s kingdom?

God’s peace does not come from eradicating our enemies but by eradicating enmity. It comes from getting rid of scapegoating rather than our scapegoats. The real enemies are the devil and the demonic powers. And they love to divide and conquer.

Can we strive for reconciliation, even in our political activism, rather than for a “winner takes all” outcome? The victorious Lion of Judah is the lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:5-6). God’s path to victory so often passes through self-sacrifice.

In my April editorial I will explore what it means for us to be citizens of God’s kingdom while being citizens of an earthly nation. But for now, I think we, regardless of our politics, need to examine ourselves: have we allowed our fears rather than God’s love to drive our politics?

Whatever our fears, Jesus has promised this: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

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