I heard two different quotes recently that came together in my head in such a powerful way that I want to share them with you. I hope I can do them justice!
I heard the first one on Shine FM, but it was a quote from Chief Red Eagle, “Angry people want you to see how powerful they are…loving people want you to see how powerful You are.” Red Eagle was a Creek Indian who lived in the Alabama area during a very turbulent time in American history (1781-1824). White men were taking over Indian land by force and Chief Red Eagle was trying to fight back. While the circumstances around this comment were different than our experiences today, this statement is still very true today.
The second quote came from a recent blog by one of my favorite authors, Dr. Tim Jennings, (Come and Reason Ministries) as he seeks to explain the growing number of mass shootings in our nation. He said, “Love and fear are inversely proportional; as love increases, fear decreases – and as fear increases, love deceases. The more fear we experience, the more quickly we see threats, real or imagined, and take actions designed to make us feel safe.”
Dr. Jennings is of the opinion that love is declining in our society. I think we all feel this to one degree or another. He said we used to be focused on three things: God, family and country, all with an eye toward service. Most people had a heart toward serving God, their family and their country, often in that order. Today, we focus more and more upon ourselves, our wants and how WE are going to be served. The sense of community has been declining since the 1950’s with a downward slide in church attendance, membership in civic organizations and volunterism. Self-sacrifice for a cause or an individual is on the decline.
So here is how I put this together in my head…see if it makes any sense to you.
A growing number of people are feeling isolated due to fragmented or estranged families, a lack of community and limited to no church fellowship. These individuals experience less love because they are not in emotionally intimate relationships. As the experience of love declines, fear creeps in. “Who can I trust?” “The only person I can count on is me!” Even to the degree “I hate people”. The movement away from God only serves to magnify the fear. There is limited experience of the deep and abiding love of Jesus.
Here is where Chief Red Eagle’s quote comes in. The number one vulnerable emotion underneath anger is fear. Angry people crave power in order to feel safer. People who crave power often capitalize upon the growing fear in other people. They stir up the fear about any number of issues and then promise that they are the ‘savior’. They are the powerful one who will rescue us out of the grizzly circumstances in which we have found ourselves. It is not difficult to convince an already fearful person that life as they know it is about to be over. It is not difficult to convice an already fearful person that this group or that group is their worst nightmare and needs to be stopped, put down or annihilated.
Can you see it?? Do you recognize it?? It is happening all around us. It is in our politics. It is in our places of employment. It is sometimes even in our churches. Fear either makes us succeptible to a narcissist who claims to be our ‘savior’ (but really only seeks to control us), or it makes us fight for our very life.
When I was about twelve years old I took classes at our local swimming pool to become a life guard at some point in the future. I wasn’t a strong enough swimmer to achieve my goal, but I did learn one powerful life lesson I have never forgotten. If your mother is drowning, bobbing up and down in the water fighting to catch even a little breath, and you swim up to face her, she is likely to push your head underwater just to grab a breath of her own. Believe me, I learned this lesson in my class the hard way! Panic makes us focus on our own survival. As Dr. Jennings states “as fear increases, love decreases”.
So, as people of faith how do we respond to this cultural shift? I propose we respond in several ways:
- We must first deal with our own fear. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18a). We can reduce/eliminate our own fear by striving every day to live in the perfect love of Jesus. God does not give us a spirit of fear, but calls us to trust Him in all things.
- We must recognize fear mongers and those who seek to control others through fear so that we are not deceived by him/her. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) These deceivers are very good at what they do, so we must check their statements against other sources. For example, it is dangerous to only watch one news source, as most of them have their own political bent and will spin stories to support their positions. With the internet we have fact checkers and multiple sources of information available to us at our fingertips.
- We need to walk in the love of Christ so profoundly that we can’t help but to love others. There is a ‘love famine’ in our society! If you want your life to make a difference then love, love, love!! Stive to make everyone who you encounter today feel better after your encounter.
- Work hard to not return anger for anger. When you meet an angry person who tempts you to be angry in return, remember that your anger will only fuel the fire of their anger. Love and kindness is the only true antidote to selfishness and anger. It doesn’t mean we have to let people abuse us, but we should draw the boundaries with kindness and respect.
- Be that person who tells others how powerful they are. Help others use their God-given talents to the fullest so that the Holy Spirit can bring about the kingdom of God here in this community.
Some experts say that we are living in the safest time in history but that we are the most fearful. If that is true, how sad is that!! But we don’t have to continue to grow more fearful. Through the wisdom of God, the love of Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit we can find the love and peace that overwhelms the darkness of fear and selfishness. May love overcome fear in your life, and may you pass it on to others.