How we see our neighbors is important. How we interact with strangers is important.
We've been given reason to be afraid. When I say that, I mean that we've been handed every reason to be afraid of everything and everyone by all of the media we ingest in a days time. I'll admit to being afraid, how could you not? When someone killed twenty children in an elementary school three years ago I looked at my then nine month old son and thought, "How can I send you into this world knowing it is so damn dangerous?"
I heard the band Eagles of Death Metal speak about the chaos in the Bataclan Theatre in Paris on the night that terrorists killed 89 people in that venue. I thought about the dozens of shows I spent packed next to strangers in dark music venues listening to loud music and wondered, "What in the hell would I have done in that situation?"
Every morning I wake up and check my e-mail. A neighborhood based social network sends me notifications from my physical neighbors about criminal activity on the streets that I live. I wonder, "how am I going to keep my family and possessions safe?"
I have anxiety. One anxious thought can send me spiraling into a nightmare of worst case scenarios. I often plan and act in response to that anxiety.
But something stops me before I start digging up the back yard to build an under-ground bunker...Jesus.
Last night I was reading a Christmas book to Kade. In it a tiny mouse takes residence in a families nativity set, pushing baby Jesus out of his manger to make room for his new mouse sized bed. Eventually the mouse realizes who he has been shoving out of his bed, and says, "I realize now, little baby, that you've come to save the world..."
That hit me. A little baby that has come to save the world. I'm sure the writers meant this in the sense of the Evangelical notion of eternal salvation, but I heard it as, "this little baby came to save us from fear, and to give us love...this little baby came to save the world..."
I thought further, we think we know how to save the world, but the way we think we will save it is not the Jesus way of saving it. We think we will save the world by slaughtering every last ISIS member. We think we will save the world (or at least ourselves) by stock piling nuclear weapons, and increasing our military budget even more. We think we will save the world by being better prepared for the next tragedy. We think we will save the world by knowing exactly who is right and wrong.
Jesus came to save us from that mess.
The problem is that Jesus showed us a way that doesn't guarantee that we won't get killed just like him. Believing in love requires us to trust our neighbors and strangers in a way that may not guarantee our safety.
The problem is that belief in LOVE is far harder than belief in FEAR. It doesn't make sense to the world to believe in love. It can seem reckless, nonsensical, impractical, etc. When your world is wired towards fear, expressions of love seem radical. Counter cultural work is hard. Swimming upstream is hard.
Jesus came to save me from my fear. If I can overcome my own fear and become a disciple of love I will be one more light to the world...a world in need of one more light. The world will be saved by love.
If you want to listen to some more thoughts on this topic, I highly recommend clicking play on this track below. It is from my friend and fellow West Hills Friends pastor Mike Huber: