Love or Fear?

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.                                                                                                                            I John 4:18

We are soon coming up on May 18th. That day happens to be my brother’s birthday (Happy Birthday Ed!), and it is also the anniversary of an infamous Supreme Court decision known as Plessy v. Ferguson. I am currently reading a book titled The Great Dissenter, which tells of the life of John Marshall Harlan, the lone dissenting Supreme Court voter on that fateful decision.

In light of the recent racially motivated shootings in Buffalo, New York, we note once again that racial strife is still very present in our society. The Buffalo shooter evidently was obsessed with a racist trope called “The Great Replacement”. This theory has had many iterations over the years, but it has gained a more recent hold in the United States by far-right extremists and neo-Nazis. The theory plays on fear and hatred, the lifeblood of racist groups.

Many people believe that the Plessy v. Ferguson decision opened the door for legally sanctioned Jim Crow laws, which for decades eroded the American character. It affirmed a belief that White people and African-Americans could not, indeed should not, have truly equal access to the amenities of the country. When the law sanctions poor behavior, such behavior flourishes. It took 58 years for Plessy v. Ferguson to be essentially struck down by the equally auspicious decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. That decision affirmed that “separate but equal” is not a valid argument concerning the education rights of citizens in the United States. Rather, it explained that Plessy v. Ferguson was an excuse to be racially divisive.

While legislation is important, it does not change the hearts of people who live by fear. Christians are called to have the love of one another as the signal tenet to live by. If one believes that people of different color, different faith, or different culture constitute a threat, then they will be doomed to a small and painful life of clinging onto a belief that never will work- one that is ultimately destructive. They will be ruled by fear, not love.

So, May 18th might be a good day to reflect on the beliefs which guide us. Do we live by fear, or are we guided by love?

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength and wisdom to be guided by love, not fear, Amen

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