IN the city where I grew up the racial balance has shifted radically. Several of my relatives have talked to me about the change, and about the fear that has come into their lives because of what appears to be a turning of the tables. We have talked many times before about race relations, often arguing about what ``ought to be.'' But for the first time I realized that basically what we should have dealt with was fear. It is probably no news that fear and racism are interlocked. But seeing this has helped me face the challenge in a new way. I realize that instead of arguing to convince someone of the importance of being just and of recognizing the worthiness of each individual, I need to help lift the burden of fear. Fear would literally distort vision, obscuring what is true of man as God creates him -- the truth that man is neither an inferior nor a superior, but the expression of God, full of dignity, lawfulness, intelligence.
The Bible says that ``fear hath torment.''1 But it also says in that same verse, ``Perfect love casteth out fear.'' What is this perfect love? How do we get it? Is it even possible to express it when centuries of education and tradition have seemed to squelch love?
Probably not, if we are looking to cast out fear through some power in the human mind. But there is a different way of looking at that verse in the Bible, and it leads to some fresh answers. In a discussion of spiritual healing in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, quotes this verse from John with a change -- the capitalization of one letter to indicate that Deity is the healing power, Love itself: ``...perfect Love casteth out fear.''2 By the time she had written Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy had devoted a great deal of prayer and study to understanding how Christ Jesus healed sickness and sin. From her own experience as a Christian healer, she came to the conclusion that it is God, divine Love, who casts out fear and breaks its despotic hold.
If we are terrorized by our view of our fellow men and women, if we are being pushed around by hatred and threatened by a feeling that someone can take our safety and well-being from us, we need to find out just what divine Love is and what Love is doing in us, in all creation. We need to open up to the fact that Love is the only intelligence at work in our lives.
Jesus will always stand as the unmatched example of this divine intelligence at work in a life. He loved in the face of brutality, hatred, and fear. He was so obedient to, so at one with, God, Love, that he was able to heal fear and its effects instantaneously. On occasion he would tell someone, ``Be not afraid'' or ``Fear not.'' He wasn't implying that people shouldn't resist some disease or terror. But he was going further and encouraging his listeners to yield to divine Love, to the power that could open blind eyes and deaf ears -- both figuratively and literally.
If something posed as power but did not come from divine Love, it didn't thwart Jesus' reliance on Love and so it could not thwart his demonstration of Love's power. When Jesus was threatened by Pilate, who asserted that he had the power to crucify Jesus or release him, Jesus responded, ``Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.''3 We have the right to say the same thing to fear. And certainly God has not given any power to fear, if God casts it out.
As we look at the many racial confrontations in our world, it may seem that healing our fear of each other is about as easy as healing a man who was born blind. Yet Jesus accomplished that healing through the very Love that is with us today. As we persist in following his example, we grow in our ability to heal fear and hate by obeying divine Love. We feel more certain that Love is the creator -- not of separate mortals bound sooner or later to kill or be killed by hatred and distrust, but of spiritual individuality. This spiritual individuality -- this indestructible identity -- is what Jesus showed us. It is our real nature, and the actual nature of those we now fear.
As we let Love work in us, we will be more and more effective healers, expressing in our communities the power that removes hatred and threat. And we will see, and help others see, what it means to be the children of God.
1I John 4:18. 2Science and Health, p. 410. 3John 19:11.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Keep yourselves in the love of God. Jude 1:21