By Doyle DeGraw
We live in a day of much distrust. In recent Gallup polls, 70 to 80 percent of us don’t trust the government to do what is right. Distrust is often rooted in fear. When fear becomes the narrative of a person or a community, the potential for a cycle of pain and hurt becomes inevitable. When fear is embedded in a story, it is unhealthy for individuals and their relationships.
Relationships that are based on fear are characterized by pain, humiliation, desperation, shame, fear of rejection, and abandonment. When we are afraid, we do not feel safe. When we don’t feel safe, we don’t trust. When we don’t trust, we avoid pain, especially in relationships that breed or enhance the fear we feel.
When writing to Titus, the apostle Paul describes a remedy to this infection. In verse 3, he describes the reality of the past, identifying lifestyles of selfishness that are fear-based and irrational, lifestyles infected with lies and distortions that show up in emotions, passions, and lusts rooted in fear. Then he describes the present reality: the appearance of a Savior who invades the culture with the antidote to fear. That antidote is love, mercy, and grace, which draw people together.
What things change because of the coming of Jesus? He saves us. Despite our fear and lack of trust, and despite our foolish, stubborn self-sufficiency, he frees us from malice and envy toward him and one another by washing us with a rebirth through the Holy Spirit. The effect is threefold: it brings forgiveness of past sins, it offers a quality of life never known before, and it gives an inheritance of hope for a different future—one that redeems the past and present. Jesus does a spiritual renovation by the generous pouring out of his Holy Spirit!
The good news of Advent is a Savior, who by his death and resurrection prescribes a remedy for fear. Instead of focusing on fear, through the Savior we are enabled to focus our resources on doing good and living in harmony with the law of love, a law which is healthy for everyone!
No wonder that, as the Savior’s birth was announced, the angel declared to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10, NIV).
Prayer: Jesus, you preached freedom for prisoners, and we are shackled by the past and present without it. Come, Lord Jesus, and cast out every fear. Perfect us in love for the sake of your kingdom!
Doyle DeGraw is pastor of Crossroads Church in Stony Brook, New York. The 2016 Advent devotions were written by RCA church planters and parent churches.