In many ways, the nine years I spent as a cop before becoming a pastor prepared me for the ministry. Being a cop gave me an understanding of life’s gritty reality. It also helped me understand how people would sometimes respond to fear. Life has a way of becoming a wake-up call for those who respond to fear with the premature knee-jerk response of a smart-aleck or smartass without taking time to assess all the facts. I found it interesting that a smart-aleck and smartass share the same dictionary definition, “a person who is irritating because they behave as if they know everything.”
People who succumb to fear can respond to its presence in several ways. Some reject the reality of a threat out of hand, thinking such things are unspiritual to entertain. They live in a version of a spiritual la-la-land. Others go overboard in their response to fear and become a threat themselves. And still, others respond with the snarky dismissal of the smart-aleck/smart-ass kind until a threat is finally realized. At that point, the color drains from their face and they stand in a puddle of their failed mockery wondering what went wrong.
There are issues that should raise a healthy fear in our minds. Some have over-spiritualized a life of faith dismissing these fear-producing realities out of hand. Those who live in these isolated bubbles of reality are trying to make their faith work without first passing the test of validity only experienced on the cruel streets of reality. The form of fear I am talking about is not the paralyzing kind that leaves us immobile and needs to be removed from our thinking. Some forms of fear are actually healthy and prepare us to respond properly with wisdom and love in moments of crisis.
We are living in a time when some who mocked and dismissed certain prophetic announcements as conspiracy theories and fear-mongering tactics are now beginning to see their initial knee-jerk dismissal was premature. This will be an opportunity for those who did not dismiss these possibilities and remained in the fight to do what a street cop does when a naïve person has put themselves in harm’s way. Love requires that we reach out and take hold of those in jeopardy, even the ones who mocked and shamed our interpretation of reality, and pull them to safety. This reaching out is an expression of love seen most clearly when it is offered to those who saw us in a negative light before a fearful reality made its appearance. True love doesn’t say “I told you so”, stand back and let fear have its way. It protects and serves.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Garris Elkins