I woke up this morning overwhelmed by the divisions in the United States. A country that’s supposed to be united is arguably more divided than ever before. In recent months, there have been many stories of people of color being murdered for no reason. These tragic deaths have sparked outrage and protests throughout the country and the world. In some cases, the men responsible have been arrested, but not in all. My heart breaks for what’s happening (and has been happening) in this country; I feel a mix of profound sadness and anger. It seems like almost daily we learn of new instances of injustice that make me want to weep and scream and bury my head in the sand and fight the system all at the same time—have you ever felt this way?
As I lay in my bed, overwhelmed by the many recent events of racism and violence toward people made in God’s own image, I found myself struggling to pray. I knew that I had to take this injustice to God—I can’t fix a problem this big, ugly, and systemic. But I couldn’t find the words. I literally couldn’t muster up anything other than “Lord, fix it.”
Then I began to think a little more deeply about many of the stories I’ve been hearing. And I see an immense thread of fear running through not only the stories about violence toward Black Americans, but through many of the other headlines I’ve read over the years.
People are afraid of the coronavirus pandemic, it originated in China, so they lash out against Asians.
People are terrified of losing their financial security and place in society, so those who weren’t born in this country are to blame.
People are scared of the other, so anyone wearing a hijab could be the enemy.
I think it’s no coincidence that “do not fear” and similar phrases appear in the Bible hundreds of times. While fear itself is not a sin, I believe it can lead us down the path of sin if we’re not careful. If our worldview is shaped by fear, it can quickly lead to hate and violence, as we’re seeing now. When people are taught to fear another race, there’s no way for reconciliation or unity to happen. If fear is the driver, love and grace are forcibly removed from the car.
Once I realized how much fear is in our headlines today, I realized what I needed to pray.
Perfect Love to invade the hearts of the fearful.
We can’t tell people who are and have been living in fear to not be afraid. It’s not a switch to be turned off, but can be driven out by the perfect love of God. I can’t think of a single race or people group who isn’t living in some degree of fear (some with really good reason); we all need Jesus and his perfect love. Let’s pray for the Church to demonstrate perfect love to those in need.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)
For those in power to not pander fear but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
God’s version of justice isn’t punitive, but restorative. Mercy is given freely to those undeserving. And humility is knowing our God-given place in this world. I believe that fear is contradictory to all of those. You can’t have restoration if you’re fearful, you won’t seek mercy if you’re scared, and if you’re controlled by fear, you likely have an incorrect view of God and yourself.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)
Restoration to happen where fear has bred division.
When we’re fearful, we like to return to where we feel safe and, for many, that can mean returning to people who look like you or think like you. There’s nothing necessarily bad about that, unless that means we stop venturing out. If we spend enough time apart, there won’t be anything left to unite us again. If we focus so much on what makes us different, we might never search for the things we have in common.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Ephesians 2:14-16 (NIV)
Fear is having its way in the world right now. But we can choose the way of love, justice, mercy, humility, restoration, and unity. We can live differently, but I believe that first, we need to pray differently. The current situations that we’re facing are spiritual issues that are fought through prayer.
Let’s pray and then move forward prayerfully as he speaks.
How are you praying in this season?
How do you think fear is influencing current events?