When all the people in the synagogue heard these things, they became very angry. They got up, forced Jesus out of town, and took him to the edge of the cliff on which the town was built. They planned to throw him off the edge, but Jesus walked through the crowd and went on his way. [Luke 4:28-30 (NCV)]

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:24 (NCV)]

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Right after writing yesterday’s devotion about selfishness being the opposite of love, I came across the words of an author that suggest that fear is the opposite of love because you cannot love and fear at the same time. This gave be pause; can something be the opposite of more than one thing?

From day one, Jesus had plenty of reasons to be frightened, yet, he wasn’t. Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt because King Herod’s men wanted to kill him. As a boy, he wasn’t afraid to be away from his parents when he stayed to learn in the temple courts. As a man, neither Jewish leaders nor Rome intimidated him. The Sadducees and Pharisees joined forces in their hatred for Jesus and were constantly on the lookout for ways to trap him. Nothing, however, stopped Jesus from his ministry or from challenging the corrupt political and religious system of his day. Fear never prevented him from speaking, healing, or pointing out hypocrisy and evil. He knew he would be betrayed, but never tried to stop Judas. He didn’t plead for mercy or justice at his trial. Nothing he said implies fear; nearly everything he said speaks of love. His last words weren’t words of fear or self; they were words of loving forgiveness.

What are the things we fear the most? Most likely it is being alone, lost, angry, used, poor, ignored, unloved, weak, needy, ill, old, hurt, abused, ineffective, unlovable, or considered different. What do we do with that fear? We protect ourselves by not getting involved, not trying, not sharing, and not caring. We walk away, we make excuses, we keep to ourselves and our interests, we pretend to be someone we’re not, we show off or hide in the shadows. Our fear makes us self-involved; in short, when we’re afraid we become selfish.

Perhaps fear and selfishness are two sides of the same coin. If we’re fearful, in an effort to protect ourselves, we become selfish. When we’re selfish, it’s likely we’re afraid of something or someone. Love, however, is the antidote to both afflictions. God is love and where God’s love is, there is no fear.

For love to be real, for it to grow deep inside, it must not give in to fear. It is not afraid to give, to risk, to chance, even if it hurts. Love believes. It is faith moving forward. Fear holds us back. It makes us stop or turn and run. [From “Borders of the Heart” by Chris Fabry]

Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears. [1 John 4:18 (NCV)]

God did not give us a spirit that makes us afraid but a spirit of power and love and self-control. [2 Timothy 1:7 (NCV)]