In Watch for the Light (see "Currently Reading" link), Johann Arnold focuses on the words of the angel to Mary when he said "Fear not!" He concludes that this exhortation means that the fear that grips human hearts will have to give way to the far greater power of love.
We don't fear the plagues of death that used to ravage the land (at least in the USA) but there is still plenty of fear to go around. We fear addiction, divorce, abortion, violence, racisim, poverty and war. As Pope John Paul II said, we live in a "culture of death".
Plus we fear the old, hiding them in nursing homes. We fear crime, buying guns and fleeing the urban areas. We fear anyone who doesn't look like us, choosing to live in gated communities. And of course we fear terrorism.
For those of us that seek to follow Jesus, there is plenty of reason to fear because Jesus often walks in vulnerable places. Born in a manger? That doesn't sound safe. Challenging the religious? Not wise. Entrusting his ministry to teenage dropouts? Petrifying! Claiming to be God? Well, we know where that got him. Arnold said...
But by overcoming death he took away all our reasons for fear, forever. Of course, it does no good to recognize this in a merely intellectual way. Knowing that Christ loves us may not save us from fear, nor will it save us from death. And so it comes down to this: the only way to truly overcome our fear of death is to live life in such a way that its meaning cannot be taken away by death.
Arnold admits that this sounds simplistic and grandiose but he insists that it is very practical.
It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others. It means choosing generosity over greed. It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power. Finally, it means being ready to die again and again - to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda.
Arnold says that this kind of lifestyle is what true love is all about. It's not about a fuzzy emotion.
Love is a tangible reality...But when we live for love, we will be able to meet any challenge that comes our way - even the final one, death.
And when you can look death in the eye, any other fear that we may confront pales in comparison.