“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
(1 John 4:17-21, NRSV)
Love versus fear. We are living in a time, in a world, in which fear rules our hearts. Fear that has been woven into the very fabric of our society; fear that we carry around as a heavy burden in our bodies, and in our souls. Just writing about fear evokes a visceral response for me, as I feel my breathing become more shallow and fast, and a hot flush radiates from my heart. Fear that stems from atrocities of the past, tribulations of today, and trepidations for tomorrow … this fear is present in our lives and we must name it and recognize it. We also must fight against letting fear rule our hearts, our behaviors, our relationships, and our world.
Love versus fear. The Bible is clear that there is no fear in love. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Now is the time as Christ followers to choose: do we want to live in the spirit of fear, or do we want to embody the perfect love of God in this world? We cannot choose both.
In our mission work in Italy, it would be easy to be swallowed up by fear. Every day people are dying trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa and the Middle East to Italy. They make this fear-defying voyage in the hope of finding a chance for a life free from violence, war, famine, repeated natural disasters, persecution, and intense human rights violations such as forced lifetime military draft, child labor, human trafficking and sexual exploitation, unlawful detention, torture, and killings. Each individual has their own unique reasons for attempting this journey. Far too many die along the way, or are deeply traumatized — either by the circumstances that drove them from their homes to begin with, or by what occurred in Libya, Lebanon, or other stops along their journey.
It would be easy to be swallowed up by fear. It would be acceptable, in the eyes of many, to continue putting up walls, turning back boats, not saving those in distress in the middle of the sea, imprisoning those who dared try to cross a man-made border “illegally”. It would be easy to justify these acts by saying that they are not our brothers and our sisters, they are not our neighbors, they are not aliens living in our land … they are others. It would be easy to say, “Well, many of them are Muslims…” and deny the love of Christ to those who are believers of different religions (or of no religion). For fear has to do with punishment…
Love versus fear. We, along with our ministry partners (the Waldensian Church in Italy and the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy), choose love. At the same time that countries around the world are building fences, building walls, implementing laws and policies to keep “the other” out, we are creating new programs to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who are arriving in our midst. While others are making it more difficult to legally enter other countries to ask for protection, we are creating safe, legal pathways (called Humanitarian Corridors), so that those who meet the legal definitions of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol (ratified by 145 recognized states/countries) do not have to board rickety old boats or inflatable rubber dinghies — putting their lives in the hands of human traffickers/smugglers — to ask for protection. Nor do they have to stay in a refugee camp for years or decades before pleading for help. We choose love. It is not always easy. It does not always feel safe. It takes work. But we choose love.
This post was originally published on Do Justice.