It’s on a Friday night when you click on the news feed and hear about Kalashnikov yielding gunmen rampaging through a European city that you know whether or not what you believe really affects how you live.
It’s when you have sent the email or text to friends who live near to where the disaster is unfolding and you’re waiting for their reply. It’s when you realise that it could so easily have been your city. You or your loved ones could have been at the game, concert or restaurant. It’s when the media are warning that your town or city could be next. That’s when you know whether or not how you live really is rooted in what you believe. It’s then that you discover if you have real, strong faith roots.
In the aftermath of Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, my mind keeps coming back to these words, “love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18). Every time you click on the faith roots website, you will see the strapline “What we believe affects how we live.” These words get right to the heart of what it means to live a life rooted in faith in God. They are written in the context of John’s description of who God is and what he is like “God is Love.” (1 John 4:8).
Currently we are thinking about what it means to say that God is great (sovereign, independent, in control, strong) and that God is good. So far, we have focused on the first part but the two go together. John tells us that God is good, he is love and that because he is good and loving, he has done something about the mess, pain, suffering and evil of a sin sick world. John tells us that God demonstrates his love by dealing with sin and evil. He did this by sending His only Son to die on the cross. When John says that “perfect love expels fear” he is saying that because the Great, sovereign God is the good, loving God, we can be safe and secure in him. We can be free from fear.
These are important words because the loudest voices in our world at the moment want us to be afraid. The terrorists want us to be afraid. They want us to cower in the face of unpredictable and seemingly irrational and unstoppable violence. They want to cause terror, to stop people going about their business freely. They want to cause panic in the financial markets. They hope that fear will lead to the collapse of societies.
It seems that much of the media want us to be afraid. Fear sells newspapers, increases viewing figures and gets you more hits on your website. Fear makes money!
The noisiest politicians want us to be afraid. Fear causes people to follow leaders who project strength. Fear divides is into us and them.
John says “Love has no fear.” He goes on to explain why. At its deepest, fear is to do with punishment. We dread the consequences of our own actions, we fear getting caught out. We fear shame. That’s why, deep down, we are afraid of death. Paul talks about sin as the sting of death (1 Corinthians 15:55-56). The Bible says that death is the legitimate punishment for sin, the penalty for our rejection and rebellion against God.
So we fear the terrorist who brings sudden death.
If I have put my trust in Jesus, then I know that I am forgiven. This means that the penalty for sin has been taken by Jesus. Death is no longer punishment. It is still painful, it is still sad but it leads to the hope of resurrection and life with Christ for ever.
If I belong to Jesus, I know that he is in control of history and in control of every day and hour of my life. I know, as we have just seen that he knows my future. My days are in his hands. I may not know what is waiting for me around the corner but I know that God knows. I know as well that even though the things I have to go through may be difficult and painful , God has planned them for my good. God is good and God is love.
So, if I believe in the great and good God who is sovereign, eternal , everywhere, knows everything, does not change and loves me then I can face the future with confidence. I can live my life without fear. I can get on that flight to a middle eastern destination, I can go shopping in Birmingham or visit London. I can catch the Eurostar to Paris. I do not need to fear because I know that my life is in God’s hands. My security is not in Kalashnikovs and bombs, not in the security services or immigration controls. My security is in Christ.
If I believe in the God who is sovereign and who is love then I can speak boldly for him. I can tell others about the hope I have in Christ. I can share the Gospel with my friends. I do not need to fear mockery, isolation, persecution. My hope is in Christ.