Pete Greig: Love in a time of fear

Today is Monday the 23rd of March. This week we will be focusing our prayers upon the Coronavirus crisis, beginning today with Christ’s invitation to love in a time of fear.

Pause

As I enter prayer now, I pause to be still; to breathe slowly, to re-centre my scattered senses upon the presence of God.

Pause and pray

Prayer of Approach
Unshakeable God, you are my ever-present help in times of trouble. Amidst all the isolation, grief and fear caused by this crisis, renew in me your peace, restore to me your perspective, and reveal to me your presence as I spend this time with you now.

Rejoice and Reflect
I choose to rejoice in the assurance of God’s protection and provision today, joining with the ancient praise of all God’s people in the words of Psalm 27:1-5…

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident.
The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock.

Psalm 27:1-5

This week, as we reflect on God’s Word amidst the chaos of Coronavirus, we’ll be praying into a different dimension of this complex crisis each day. Together we’re going to address the themes of connection in a time of isolation, depth in a time of distraction, courage in a time of containment, hope in a time of hype and breath in a time of death, beginning today with Christ’s invitation to love in a time of fear.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4: 15-19

Everywhere I look right now I encounter fear. The news is scary. There is fear in peoples’ eyes. But the apostle John says that God’s ‘perfect love drives out fear’. The Greek word for driving out here is ‘ballei’. It’s the same word used of Jesus driving out the money-lenders from the temple, and casting demons out of the oppressed. It’s forceful. Love doesn’t just soothe our fear. It isn’t polite. There is a violence about the way it kicks terror out of our hearts and minds. It’s important to face the facts, even when they are scary, but even more important to focus on the ultimate and enduring reality of God’s love.

Ask
As I prepare for Good Friday in 18 days’ time, I focus my thoughts upon the image of Christ upon the cross, acknowledging its terror but also allowing thanks to arise in my heart for this tangible proof that love wins.

Pause and pray

Remembering the way that Jesus had compassion upon Mary, even from the cross, I think now of people who are particularly fearful at this time – the elderly, the unwell and those without work – presenting each one to Christ on the cross and entrusting them to his love.

Pause and pray

Yield
As I return to the passage, I notice the way that the apostle John repeats the word ‘love’ again and again, nine times in total, once for every 12 words. It’s like a heart beating rhythmically through the text and through the years.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4: 15-19

A story is told of the Apostle John who wrote these words. In old age they would carry him from place to place, church to church, barely breathing, the last remaining connection on earth with the human Son of God. And whenever he arrived anywhere crowds would gather to hear and see him speak. With great effort he would sit up on his stretcher, and the room would fall silent, hushed in eager anticipation. ‘Love one another’ he would cry. ‘Love one another’. He would then lie down. His three-word sermon was over. And he’d be carried to the next congregation. ‘In the end,’ as one gnarly old saint said, ‘the only thing that will matter is how well you loved’. How might I drive fear from another person’s life today, by the simple power of love?

Pause and pray

Prayer of Yielding
At this time of so much fear I take hold of God’s promise in Isaiah 43 finding courage in this beautiful assurance for the day to come:

Hear the Word of the Lord: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you.’ (v.1-2)

Closing Prayer
Father, help me to live this day to the full,
being true to You, in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others,
being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost,
proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.
Amen.

One Reply to “Pete Greig: Love in a time of fear”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s