In the wake of the horrific shootings in Tunisia and Charleston, I’ve been thinking a lot about the dynamics of hate and fear and how they are related to violence. Two driven individuals gunned down numbers of their fellow human beings in the name of a perverted ideology, one of race and one of religion/culture. Many of us identify with those folks who were gunned down randomly while they were simply enjoying a holiday or attending a bible study group. We feel vulnerable and afraid.
Scripture (1 John 4.18) teaches that “Perfect love casts out fear.” As Christians, we are commanded to love others with the same love that Jesus has for us. It’s hard enough to love in that open and self-giving way when we are feeling safe and appreciated, much less when we feel uncertain or threatened and afraid. That’s why it is so striking that St John says that love is the best weapon to drive fears away. That means loving while we’re afraid on order not to be ruled by that fear.
Fear all too easily casts out love and replaces it with a dehumanising hatred that soon leads to violence. Ideologies built on such hatred can never lead to the peaceful bridging of differences. Jesus’ kind of love reaches out in care and concern to the “other”, the one who is different, the one we may even have been taught to hate or fear. We must avoid and oppose hate-based ideologies, but never by adopting their tactics. Our aim must always be to become perfected in love and thus freed from fear.
The Revd Canon Robbin Clark, Dean of Women Clergy