Destructive Fear and Anger

“In this world you will have trouble…” John 16:33

These are emotions we experience when we witness a violent event. In far too many places in the world, violence is a constant threat and a daily occurrence. Yesterday, it was on the steps of the nation’s Capitol.  

So what is our reaction to Wednesday’s violence?

Agony in the Garden, El Greco

Fear? Fear of the possibility of violence. Fear that grows into a suspicion of anyone who is different from us. Fear, if left to its own imagination, can distort the way we see others. We can be tempted to avoid engaging with people who are different from us, but instead build walls to protect against anyone that seems to be a danger to us.

Anger? Angry about a mob breaching the Capitol building. Angry towards those who incited violence, or did nothing to prevent it. Such anger can grow in us, and can be turned on anyone who appears like an enemy. And it’s easy to add people to this frightening list. Anger can cause us to create evil caricatures out of people who look or think differently.

Fear and anger, if left unchecked, keep us from loving people. 

Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). Christ experienced fear and hatred, and yet he tells his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Later in John’s Gospel he says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The dark reality we’re witnessing will tempt us to fear and hate. So when we are tempted to fear, remember to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Let’s not allow fear to control our lives! When we are tempted to hate, remember Christ’s radical command to love our enemies.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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