I’ve been thinking today.
After a GREAT conversation with my dear friend and mentor Wes Roberts, I’m slowly trying to understand how people see the world and how they respond to different ways of seeing. I’m more convinced than ever, we don’t have a place of respectful discourse in our culture today and FEAR is paralyzing our ability to learn, respect, and love “The Other.”
This morning we were sharing stories of people in our lives who try to box in a certain thought without any regard for the individual. Often it takes place on the internet or some method of communication where it’s easy to spew an idea without any sort of calculation. It’s crazy how the internet gave people permission to simply be vile toward other people. No one would ever look at another person and just say “YOU’RE FAT” without getting an incalculable response from the other. (most likely a punch in the face) We learn early in our development how to communicate stuff to people because we learn it doesn’t feel good to make someone feel bad, or to feel the retaliation I might feel by saying something offensive.
But put it on the internet, Facebook message it, or Instagram a sour message to someone, and somewhere down deep you kind of feel good. You feel like your point has to be read, heard, or listened to. You can express yourself without any way for someone to come back and question your assumptions: at least in the short-term. (for more you can see a Conan O’Brien interview with Louis C.K. here.)
This type of discourse allows for the fear of “the other” to dominate the issues we want to talk about, and leads to a distance of relationship. We can’t have civil discourse anymore. As I watch the news outlets try to tackle real issues today, I feel like I’m watching a 90’s Mike Tyson fight where whoever yells the loudest wins. We create this space of fear by regulating our differences to yelling and anger, and then fear grows more. Who wants to be made fun of on television because they aren’t as charismatic as the person on the other side of the issue?
Why do we give into fear?
I’m amazed how quickly people give over to fear. We’re afraid of snakes. We’re afraid of heights. We’re afraid of death. We’re afraid of someone who might come and do us harm. But more to the core of this article, We’re afraid of people who think differently than we do. Just look at our culture.
Politically: Republicans won’t hang out with Democrats and vice versa. I mean they can’t even be in the same photo-op for goodness sake. How in the world is government supposed to function when everyone is afraid of being in the Times tomorrow?
Socially: We create clubs where some are invited in and others are left out. Ask anyone why someone of a different social background isn’t allowed in the club, and you’ll get some well oiled answer about membership and history. But in reality, if you dig down deeper, we like to hang out with other people who make us feel safe.
Economically: We don’t normally associate deep friendships with people of different economical means because somehow we’re afraid of being used, using, or treating another with false motives. We’re afraid.
Psychologically: We tend to group up with people of similar family backgrounds and similar ways of thinking.
A cursory summary of the way we hang out with our friends would conclude that we’re pretty fearful of, well; A LOT OF STUFF.
Maybe we don’t have the answers.
Maybe we don’t have the capacity or bandwidth to allow someone who thinks or acts different to be in our sphere of influence.
Maybe we ARE living in an Us vs. Them narrative where the battle for survival is dependent on choosing the “right/winning” team.
God called us to live outside of fear.
If you are a faith person, and you believe in God, the Bible says, “God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) So if you’re living in a way that gives over to fear, you’re actually giving into something that isn’t Godly.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t times in our lives that we are afraid.
But what it does beg the question: If God didn’t give me a spirit of fear, and yet I’m continually fearful of another person; what part of God’s Kingdom am I living in today?
Maybe you’re afraid of someone politically, socially, economically, or psychologically.
Maybe you’re afraid of someone religiously, someone who doesn’t believe like you believe.
Maybe you’re afraid of someone nationally.
Whatever the case may be, it would be a good study to watch how Jesus handled the fear of “the other” and the impact he would get from people of His own tribe.
Jesus wasn’t afraid
Jesus sat with the Samaritan Woman, a clear indicator he would be talked about in the religious circles of the day. (John 4)
Jesus sat with lepers, a certain social excommunication. (Luke 17:11-19)
Jesus dined with Tax Collectors, the most hated people in the Jewish culture. (Matthew 9:10-11)
Jesus healed Romans, the occupiers of His day. (Matthew 9)
Jesus forgave the prostitute, an outright offense to the religious people. (John 7)
Jesus came to say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 5:2)
In other words, why fear?
If you are on the Journey to follow Jesus, what is holding you back from engaging with the world the way He did?
Is it the fear of what people may think?
Is it the fear of questioning yourself and opening up the possibility you may have to re-learn what you know?
Is it because we’re comfortable in our own man-made world that we don’t have the capacity to step outside for a while and see what else is out there?
God is with you and for you while you are on the planet today.
He wants us to submit to His authority, and obey His commandments. (John 14:15)
He desires that we abide with Him, up close and personal, not far off and distant. (John 15:4)
He commands that we “Love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor (all people) as ourselves.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
What do we have to fear?