John Lennon said, “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance… all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
I have been afraid of a lot of things. Strangers. Public speaking. Being brutally murdered. For about a year, I had nightly terrors that someone would break in and kill us. After we moved, that fear vanished but others surfaced.
Failure. What others think of me. That no one thinks of me. That I will never accomplish my fears—or even find peace. Fear that the bad things I heard as a child are true after all, and that the good things aren’t.
What do we do with all of that?
Fear is debilitating. Fear drives us to act in stupid ways because we’re afraid of being stupid. It makes us shake our head in shame as we remember something “dumb” we said six years ago.
John Lennon said that everything is done from either love or fear. Bréne Brown said it too. We experience a panorama of emotions as humans, but they go come either from love or fear. Confidence, courage, hope—all love. Worry, pride, self-recrimination—all fear.
Embracing others even when we don’t understand their lives or even their choices—that’s love. Rejecting others or requiring change of what we don’t understand (like being gay)—that’s fear. I got some pushback when I blogged that fear motivates Christians’ fight against gay marriage, but it’s true; love is definitely not at the root.
What does love-motivation look like? It’s the Good Samaritan who saves a man dying on the roadside. It’s the father who welcomes his rebellious son with no conditions. It’s the woman’s complete pardon after adultery. These things seem ludicrous to a mind acting in fear. Where’s the security in such extravagant love?
Yet, it’s precisely what Jesus instructs us to do.
What does this extravagance look like today? It’s unconditional love for your gay child, though gay might not have been part of your plan for their life. It’s to stand up for the child molested by the youth pastor, though that stand may fracture your church. It’s telling a transgender friend: “I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I am so glad you’re here, and I will help you in any way we can.” It’s having a trans friend.
By contrast, what does fear-motivation look like? It’s kicking out your LGBTQ child because you don’t have the capacity to trust God with their lives or direction. It’s silencing or shaming an abused child to defend the youth pastor (I know people it’s happened to).
I understand the shift required to live from love instead of fear. I have fought for years the fears I mentioned above. And only in God’s good timing did he actually free me from any of them.
Instead of fear or love, it might help to see it as: fear or faith. Because that is really the choice. We can trust our own understanding (which is extremely limited), or we can trust God for everything beyond our understanding. That takes courage indeed.
To live a full, rich life takes courage. Courage to trust even when we’re afraid. Only life lived from a whole heart (the root meaning of “courage”)—produces the abundant life Jesus offers.
“What do you fear, lady?” [Aragorn] asked.
“A cage,” [Éowyn] said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King