What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, I woke up to happy tears for yet another very moving and heartfelt Christmas message from Richard Armitage (@RCArmitage) about his wish for 2017 for him, and his invitation to us, to be fearless, to live without fear. Barely a few hours later, the pillar which sustained the very core of his lofty communique was shaken just as powerfully, as symbolically as the earth and everything that is in it is currently being shaken: physically, ethically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, on each and every level. One wonders how some doubt the existence of a God, when there is such perfect design and harmony even in the shaking taking place right now in all dimensions of all that lives. Maybe we should begin to pay attention again to Scripture. Whether one believes that it is a load of nonsense or not, I find it to be an endless oasis of wisdom and guidance in a world where as of late, the blind are leading the blind. Is it a coincidence that the word of God has so much to say about fear? And aren’t the fear demons we all fight in frantic silence every day, as does the world at large, not the reason why humanity is on a downward spiral to self-destruction? At times like this, I cling on for dear life to this particular verse:
2 Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind
A sound mind: the hardest thing to maintain in a world where no one cares for integrity and truth any more.
Last night my new courage-filled, fired up heart stumbled upon a bucket of icy water on hearing the news of yet another brutal killing in the streets of Berlin. The very notion of fearlessness, of loving our neighbour, of extending ourselves toward our fellowmen, so beautifully expressed by Richard, was put on the stand for trial once again as news travelled fast about the killer allegedly being an individual who had been in a refugee shelter. Like moth to a flame hundreds of crazed individuals who thrive and fester on pumping out hatred from every pore of their being, used this dreadful news to cast blame on all those who have shown a basic humanity for the millions of displaced people whose lives have been robbed of basic rights and any kind of dignity; whose existence is regarded by so many as far less worthy of any consideration than that of a stray dog.
Don’t get me wrong. I do understand where some are coming from. In Spanish we say “El miedo es libre”. In other words, who are we to judge another if they feel fear and because of it close themselves up to any kind of risk or possibility of coming into harm or danger? I myself am scared, of course I am. But what am I scared of? Am I scared of what may happen to me or my loved ones? Am I scared of getting hurt, of losing it all, of becoming an outcast in society, of being treated by others like an animal? Deep down, the majority of us would rather close our doors and our heart to refugees, to any kind of immigrant, because opening them would mean being put out of our own comfort zones, both physical and emotional; it would mean letting others partake of all the material things, resources, and possibilities open to us; it would mean giving up our misconceived utopia; it would mean loving on someone who is a complete stranger to us; it would mean giving up our obsessive self-centeredness in order to consider the needs of another. Simply put, it would mean: being human. Last time I checked that’s what we call ourselves, and yet, in turning the needy away, are we not as soulless as those whom we despise for perpetrating such terror on others? The irony of it all is that all these people already are where we fear we might be, if we let them in. They are in Hell on earth.
But for every hell, there will, there should always be a heaven. Only, at present, we, the rest of the world, their only hope, have shunned that responsibility and so our inability to empathise with the human beings in such a hell, makes us no different to those who put these people in such abominable circumstances in the first place. We live in an era where there is no heaven for every hell, only more hell. A world where evil meets with more evil, and fear is met with terror rather than courage. Humankind, like the bull in the ring whose masculinity has been tampered with in order to rid him of his ability to fight in fair and equal measure to his opponent, has lost the very essence that gave birth to its name. Yes, in this age of sexual freedom, ironically we are all being turned into eunuchs by fear. Our most basic human instincts to love and care for the least of these, to fight for justice and against barbarism and oppression, our ability to sacrifice ourselves for what is right, has been neutered.
A scene from the film Schindler’s List always comes to mind when I think about fear. When Schindler realises he could have saved so many more lives if he hadn’t coveted so much for himself and his. We waste so much time, so much money and energy, so much life because of fear. Sometimes the very thing that we fear is the very thing that we become, as we turn a blind eye to desperate need, to injustice, to atrocity, to inhumanity. In essence, when we choose our own safety and comfort when faced with the utmost desperate need in others, we become dehumanized. We might think we are safe and free but we lose the greatest of gifts, the one that sets us apart from all else that lives: our morality, our very soul. Will turning these people away stop terrorism from happening, even reduce it? One has to be pretty naïve and pretty brainless to think that. Evil always finds a way, a vessel to have its way. It has been like this since the beginning of times and it will be like this to the end.
No matter how hard we try to make this issue about something else, it all boils down to one very simple reality, a trait in the human soul as old as the earth itself: pride. The pride to think that we are better than them or more deserving of a better life. What a ridiculous notion: men playing at being Gods who choose who deserves to live and who doesn’t; who deserves our mercy or by contrast our indifference. Yes, Richard once again hits the nail on the head for me when he says “It hasn’t been a great year in terms of honour and grace, it has been a year of hubris and loss”. For it is only by grace, how else, that some of us are born into comfort, freedom, abundance, peace. And just as it has all been given to us through no accomplishment of our own, it can all be taken away. It often is. I don’t know what the point of life is. I sure ponder on that often but have not quite come with any resolute answers yet. But what I do know is that to everything that lives there is a cause and an effect, there is a purpose, there is a cosmic justice, there is a right and there is a wrong. And as sure as we are witnessing a hell on earth at present, I know with every fibre of my being that one of the reasons why the rest of us have been spared from such a hell by grace, has to be so that we counteract it by being the antidote to all the hurt, pain, misery, tragedy, evil and yes, sin.
Thank you Richard for your words but most of all for not giving up hope and in doing so, encouraging the rest of us who are struggling. I was out walking with my dog today and I prayed for you. I prayed that God would arm you and me with the courage we need to start being fiercely fearless in everything we need to be. I prayed that he would give me the words to write this in answer to your Facebook message, and this is the result.
God bless your heart and soul Richard.
I leave you with another scripture which keeps me sane when I think I can’t stomach any more of this horror:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.