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Fear. A natural human reaction, a reaction that is basic and key to our survival. It is fear that helps us avoid dangerous situations. It is fear that tells us not to touch a hot stove. It is fear that causes us to duck when something comes close to hitting us in the head. It is fear that leads us to act in ways in relationships with others to prevent us from getting hurt if they have hurt us in the past. There is a certain level of fear that is helpful and necessary for life.
On the other hand, too much fear can become our worst enemy. Fear of the other puts up barriers between us and “them” resulting in our talking about “them” or acting toward “them” in ways that dehumanize and divide. Fear leads to our “taking sides” in a political or social argument and holding to it so tightly that we are closed off to other perspectives. Fear prevents us from trying something new, keeping us in situations that are difficult and sometimes painful. Fear can keep us from being able to work to make things better. Fear can also keep us from seeing the things in life that are positive.
Because of all of this, it is no surprise to me that “do not be afraid,” or some variation of the phrase, is the most repeated phrase in the Bible. When people are met by God or messengers of God, often they are greeted with “do not be afraid.” God constantly invites us not to fear. In the Gospel of John, after Jesus is raised from the dead, his closest followers had locked themselves in a room because they were afraid. Jesus shows up there in that room with them and the first thing Jesus says is “peace be with you.” Jesus does the same thing for us. Jesus shows up in the locked rooms of our lives, places where we are afraid and offers us peace. God in Christ offers you peace. You do not have to be afraid. God is with you every step of the way. And together being free from fear, we can get to know one another, learn to love one another, and tear down the walls that divide us as a community, nation, and world. Peace be with you; do not be afraid.

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