Advent 2015: No Fear!

There’s a lot bandied about these days under the term of a “phobia.” Homophobia and Islamophobia are the two big ones right now (although Trumpophobia might be a good one to add).

A phobia is characterised by fear. The terms are as incorrect as they are offensive.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m heterosexual and Christian, but I’m not afraid of homosexuals or Muslims, in fact I have close friends who fall under one or both of those categories. The real issue is sensationalism by the media.

In 1985 my family was directly affected by this in a very personal way. My younger brother was killed in a road accident when he was hit by a motorist driving legally and as safely as that particular road allowed. Robin suddenly decided to turn right across the driver’s path – we drive on the left in England. The poor driver had no chance to take avoiding action and Robin was knocked to the ground, hit his head and died a few hours later of brain injury.

The newspapers said he was “thrown over the car,” an image far more sensational and headline grabbing than what actually happened, but the image it put in our minds was horrific: his body thrown into the air, terror in his eyes as he saw the ground coming to meet him then the shock of the impact.

I wasn’t with him, none of my family were, but the one witness said it happened so fast he wouldn’t have known what was going on. He knocked his head on the car bonnet – probably rendering him unconscious – then fell off onto the ground, striking his head against the curb – probably the blow that caused the fatal injury.

That’s not sensational enough to grab headlines, and that was 30 years ago in local media.

Recently over 120 people were murdered in Paris, France by ISIS. The reports I have read include the words Islamophobic and xenophobic prominently. Should we be concerned about terrorism in Europe? Certainly. Should we be aware that ISIS may be sending terrorists into Europe and America disguised as refugees?

Of course.

But phobic? An overreaction at the very least.

We should be cautious. We should be wise. We should be aware. But as Christians we should not be afraid.

Sensational, headline-grabbing editors want their writers to strike a chord – however inaccurate – in people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way minimizing the events in Paris, but we need to get a grip.

Hate cannot drive out hate. Emphasising the “religion” claimed by these men – and I use the word in it’s loosest sense here – simply breeds hatred towards it. I’m no fan of Islam, I don’t see it as a path to God, but one of many paths that are close, but wrong. CS Lewis likened other religions to maths puzzles in Mere Christianity, where there could be many routes to an almost correct answer, but only one to the actual right answer.

If we are to defeat the hate of ISIS, we must fight hate with the only thing powerful enough to overcome it: Love. Love, coupled with forgiveness, will overcome hate every time.

Considering that the central part of many of Jesus’s teachings mention this, it’s something to be taken seriously.

I have several Muslim friends as I’ve mentioned before. One or two are becoming more… let’s say “assertive” in their posts on Facebook and statements in conversation. In some ways I understand it.

Their religion is being hijacked by extremists the way Christianity was during the crusades 800 years ago. But the anger and bitterness they express is something to be concerned about. They are being consumed by fear.

Fear is a very real experience, but it is one over which we, as Christians, have been given the Victory over already. As He walked over the stormy sea to the disciples in the sinking boat what happens?

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”” (Matthew 14:27) 

Peter is the only one who gets it. As a result he walks over the raging sea to Jesus. Fear begins to take him as he sees the storm, but by taking Jesus’s hand he is able to rise again and walk back to the boat with Him.

Fear is defeated in Peter.

Let’s let go of it and walk a victorious life as well.

Fear is defeated!

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