“Perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18
As you might expect, I have had numerous conversations today at Perkins. These have encouraged me to reflect, not so much on yesterday’s election as on my hopes as a Christian for a better society, one that we together should work toward whatever our party affiliation.
One of the greatest challenges the first apostles faced was the creation of socially diverse communities of believers, communities that had few analogs in the ancient world. Theirs was a society rife with division and in which the powerful and privileged showed little concern for those thought to be beneath them. It is no accident therefore that, when speaking about fellow believers, the New Testament authors chose to employ the language of the family. To call someone “brother” or “sister” was to welcome them into a wholly different form of relationship.
It is a primitive but natural instinct for humans to fear those who are perceived to be different, strange, or other. Such fear is an incredibly powerful motivator, inhibiting the executive functions of the brain that might otherwise counter it. Racism, to give only the most obvious example, is powerful precisely because it is irrational.
Over the past four months, I have met many hundreds of persons associated with Perkins. It is a wonderful and highly diverse group. As a follower of Jesus, I am primarily interested in what we have in common, different though we may be. One thing I hope we all share is a commitment to overcome the all-too-natural tendency to fear “the other.” We all — Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike — should be profoundly disturbed by and repudiate anything that encourages us to see others as objects and not as individuals whom God loves.
I trust that all of us associated with Perkins, like those in the earliest church, will model a form of community in which there is diversity without demonization, where we not only tolerate but love those with whom we disagree. As 1 John said, “Perfect love casts out fear.” In Christ, we are family, not strangers, and certainly not enemies.