Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

"The one thing we absolutely owe to our Lord is never to be afraid."
-Charles de Foucauld

by Neal Foster

The main thing I love about Peace Catalyst is its distinctively Jesus-centered approach to peacemaking. One of the most radically Jesus-centered Christians I know of was Charles de Foucauld, a Catholic monk who took the presence of Jesus to the heart of the Sahara desert around the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. The Muslim Tuareg tribes grew to love him, referring to him affectionately as the "White Father." Interestingly, Charles was not motivated by mere humanitarian concern; it was his complete devotion to what he called the "bleeding heart of Jesus" which inspired him to go to those he considered farthest from the gospel, the nomads of the Sahara.

Although I have many theological differences with brother Charles, I think he hits the nail on the head with the quote above. In my experience, fear is the number one deterrent to following Jesus, even for the most sincere Christian. Instead of walking in the example of "the Friend of sinners" to reach out to Muslims or other non-Christians, I get concerned about what will happen to my family, to my comfort, or even to my life.

But how many times does Jesus say not to be afraid? Lots. It was kindof his main message after his resurrection. "Peace. Do not be afraid." Almost like it's a non-negotiable if I'm going to follow him. Fear provides all the reasons in the world to grasp my own life and try to save it using my own devices; Jesus says that if I want real life, I have to follow him and not be afraid, even to die.

What about the command to "fear God"? That means to have a holy reverence of God, right? What is the first thing that someone who fears God in this way will want to do? Find out what God commands and obey it, right? You can't say you fear God if you don't obey Him. What did Jesus say is the greatest commandment, and the one next to it? Love God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. So if I begin with fearing God, I will obey Him; if I obey Him, I will love Him and others; if I grow more in love, I have less room for fear. 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”

Brother Charles was eventually killed by bandits after years of faithfully performing the Eucharist by himself in the desert, trying to embody the presence of Jesus, and love those who had no good Christian neighbors. Before his death he wrote in his journal, "All our enemies can do is present us with victories." This can't mean anything like conquering our enemies, for brother Charles, who was a soldier before becoming a monk, had renounced the ways of violence at his conversion. I think what Charles meant was that we always have a choice in our actions or reactions. We can choose to be afraid, drawing boundaries, clutching at what we think is ours and preserving our own comfort, but Jesus, the perfect revelation of the God who is love, says that way leads to death. On the other hand, if we choose the humble, serving, generous way of Jesus, we can only win, no matter if we lose something (or everything!) in this world. Even in the most fearful situation, surrounded by people who could legitimately be considered our “enemies,” if we act based on Jesus’ way of love, there is no chance for defeat. Fear, sin, and death have an expiration date, but “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).