After the terrorist massacre in Orlando, I’ve been thinking about this question: What’s the opposite of terrorism?
We have grown accustomed to acts of terror in world news, but when they happen in our protected country, we finally take terrorism seriously. But taking it seriously doesn’t mean acting appropriately. There are plenty of times when we take things seriously but inappropriately.
To fight terrorism in a so-called “war on terror,” with the same tools that the terrorists use, is to let the terrorists determine the rules and parameters of the ugly game. Fighting a war is exactly what terrorists want, so no war on terror will ever succeed. Something totally different has to be done in order to get different results.
If it is the job of terrorists to create terror or fear, we must be in the business of rejecting fear and terror for the sake of war, putting something else in its place.
Biblical wisdom tells us: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:18, The Message).
The opposite of fear or terror is love. But this love isn’t merely a set of nice feelings toward others. It’s not a smile. It’s not a handshake.
Before the passage cited above, we read what this love actually looks like:
This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
Jesus enters our world, loving us while we don’t love him. And he dies as the central act of restoring our damaged relationship with God.
The way to replace fear with love is to follow the way of Jesus: entering into the world of those who do not love us, offering our lives in order to repair our broken relationship.
We cannot do this by invading with armies. On the flip side, we cannot do this by staying at home, in our cozy communities and never getting to know those who are not friendly with us.
Only a friendly invasion with the best interest of others works.
When Omar Mateen killed 49 people in a gay bar in Orlando, he was an evangelist of fear and death. He had entered into that context over several years and got to know the place and its people and then he gave his life to spread his cause.
To defeat the Mateens of this world, we need to be just as committed to stepping into the worlds of others, just as committed to our cause, and just as committed to giving our lives for it, for our Lord.
But our cause is one of life, not of death. It is one of love, not of destruction. It is one of following the Crucified Messiah, not a warring prophet. For love and life, we take in suffering and even death, instead of dealing it out.
Question: Into which “world” is Jesus calling me to follow him, replacing fear with love, so that love may exist between those with whom love does not now exist?