by Evan Curry
“As kingdom people we are called to live in love, which means we are called and empowered to live free of fear. Because our source of worth, significance, and security is found exclusively in God’s love and God’s reign, not our own immediate well-being, and because we believe in the resurrection, we are empowered to love…fear is an indication that we are living in idolatry, not love.” (Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church).
Phil is a homeless man that attends our church. I don’t really know Phil all that well. I am not actively involved in our homeless outreach, which takes place every Tuesday in Bristol. As I’ve gotten to know Phil on Sunday evenings when our church meets, he always greets me with a smile and refers to me as “Pastor.” It has become a highlight of my Sundays.
Two Sundays ago, after I preached a sermon, Phil approached me. He was touched by the sermon. He told me of a situation he had been facing recently—a woman, who had consistently caused him trouble, earlier that week, pulled him down from behind, in which he injured his tailbone. Phil asked, “What would you do?” I told Phil that I know Jesus would tell him to love his enemies and pray for this young woman. Phil responded with skepticism (as we all often do when dealing with issues of reconciliation). He feared that love wouldn’t work. I encouraged him with an example from Martin Luther King, Jr., another statement by Jesus, and told him to keep me updated about how it was going.
This past Sunday, Phil walked up to me during the service. As usual, he addressed me as “Pastor” and then said in a loud whisper, “I did it! I walked up to the girl this week, gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and that she should to come to church with me. And now we are friends!” Quite frankly, I totally forgot about our conversation the week before, but I was impressed that Phil actually carried out the commands of Jesus and it actually worked.
Fear often keeps us from loving others. We are afraid people won’t respond to the love of Christ because “it’s just not practical.” Christlike love is not practical. Fear is totally practical, but it is not a Christian virtue. It is, in fact, idolatrous. If we live in fear, if we are afraid that what Jesus said won’t actually work because we are people in the real world, we fail to see the power the resurrection brings into the lives of people like Phil—walking testimonies that looking out for our own well-being, rather than another’s, keeps us in bondage to fear but loving others breaks the chains of fear. And perfect love casts out all fear.