Posted by Roberta Grimes • July 06, 2019 • 28 Comments
Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus
I was born at the end of the Second World War. When I was a child, the cold war was hot! I don’t think anyone younger than retirement age can comprehend what it was like to be an American child in the early fifties. We expected to be bombed at any moment, to the point where among my first memories is the fact that whenever I went out to play I would be repeatedly looking up and warily studying the planes overhead to try to spot the falling bombs. In school we learned that in the event of an attack, we should hunch under our desks and cover our heads. I recall that one day in 1953 I was coloring on the living room rug when the radio announcer – we didn’t have a TV – solemnly intoned, “Stalin… is dead.” A six-year-old child who had not the dimmest notion of who Stalin might be looked up, alarmed by the thought that maybe now the bombs would come. As I think about it, I realize that I likely didn’t have much notion of what constituted the terrible danger that had filled my life from its earliest moments; but there was a fear at the depth of my being, a horrific danger at the core of my life that in each moment threatened everything I loved.
My mother was throughout her life the happiest person I have ever known. I cannot recall ever seeing her angry, or seeing her fearful about anything, even though my parents had money troubles and their lives were far from perfect. Somehow she rose above it all. And I vividly recall the moment when she was cheerily cooking dinner one day and I walked into the kitchen bearing the entire burden of all those grown-up terrors, and I looked up at her – looked far up, so I know I couldn’t have been more than six – and I said something like, “They could bomb us right now! Aren’t you scared?”
She looked down at me with the small smile that she nearly always wore, and she said, “We cannot live in fear.”
“We cannot live in fear.”
I am sure she promptly forgot that moment, but for me it was a watershed! Repeatedly throughout my life – until I got past fear so I didn’t need her mantra anymore – whenever something would worry me, I would think, we cannot live in fear, and my fears would go away. I learned after her death that she is quite advanced spiritually, which fact does not surprise me at all! If you can jettison the ballast that fear lays on your mind, then the love that is at the core of your being will lift you naturally, just as a bubble that is freed in water rises toward the light.
My mother could not have known why it is so important that we not live in fear, but Jesus knew that fear works against our bringing the kingdom of God on earth, and the dawning of that earthly kingdom of God was His core reason for coming here. So He spoke against fear repeatedly! To quickly reprise the reasons why conquering fear is so important:
It is no wonder that Jesus so much emphasized our need to free ourselves from fear! Here is the loveliest of those crucial Gospel passages: “(D)o not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (LK 12:22-32).
The only place in the Gospels where being fearful is encouraged doesn’t even come from Jesus. It comes from what is called the Magnificat, where Mary praises God for the fact that she is miraculously pregnant with Jesus. It begins,
“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon those who fear Him from generation to generation” (LK 1:46-50).
That last sentence is the basis for the fact that Christians consider being “God-fearing” to be actually a virtue! But Jesus tells us no such thing. In fact, He insists that the only virtue is love, and the better we love the more Godlike we are. He says, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22:37-40). And, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (MT 5:43-48).
The Jesus of the Gospels tells us repeatedly to put away fear so we can perfectly love! But Christians take that sentence from the Magnificat – a sentence that was not even spoken by Jesus – and they beat us for life with the insistence that unless we forever fear God, we cannot have God’s mercy “from generation to generation.” Those words were even displayed on a stained-glass window in my childhood church! I have managed to vanquish fear, but how many other children in that church, and children in how many other churches, have grown into adulthood and then old age with the nagging need to fear God stuck in their minds?
Religious fear is an insidious master. I am coming to think that it is LK 1:50, that one sentence, that lies beneath the fact that Christianity is so negative. Let’s think this through. At the core of Christian teaching is the notion that we are so sinful and unworthy of God’s mercy that God had to send Jesus to die in our place the horrible death that we ourselves deserve. That is already pretty scary, don’t you think? Then LK 1:50 tells us that even after Jesus has settled our score with God, we must continue to fear God in order to continue to receive God’s mercy “from generation to generation.” Say, what? So even after Jesus died for our sins, God remains prepared to do us harm unless we will grovel in fear at God’s metaphorical feet forevermore? God’s love is limited. It is qualified. And fear and love are polar opposites, so what we fear we cannot love! Tragically, just Christianity’s peculiar praise for people who are “God-fearing” puts a barrier between us and God, when Jesus in the Gospels emphatically tells us there must be no barriers at all!
The Jesus of the Gospels plainly says that fearing God lies at the root of all evil. He says that:
Fortunately, we can now consign the Magnificat to the dustbin, together with everything else in the Bible that is inconsistent with the Gospel words of Jesus. He tells us that eternally:
Even if you still believe that Jesus died for your sins, please remember that He said from the cross, “It is finished” (JN 19:30). And in that moment it was finished indeed! He had taught us all that we need to know to bring the kingdom of God on earth. And He had taught us that nothing but God’s perfect love is upon us from generation to generation, forevermore.
28 thoughts on “We Cannot Live in Fear”
Hi Roberta, and thank you for addressing something that, despite its acceptance in most religious dogma, bothers many people. Interesting that this central tenet of the way we’re taught to approach God rings so hollow, as if God is the Wizard of Oz. If it comes down to this one line in the Bible, we know it’s likely that whatever word Mary used, it wasn’t fear.
Whatever Mary said, she said it in Aramaic (related more to Sanskrit than to Hebrew), not English, and it was recorded in ancient Greek.
An article I read recently by Harvard-based Greek scholar Gregory Nagy points out that the word fear in English doesn’t really convey the right emotion of the ancient Greek or Aramaic words. The words from the ancient languages refer more to a dramatic moment when the true face of the divine is revealed as if from behind a mask, and we are astonished. That is a much more powerful feeling for Mary to express than fear! AND it doesn’t suggest that the face of God is anything to be afraid of.
PS- My beloved and too wise guide is urging me now to add this: What’s most curious is the impact of this cultural artifact on the people of the 1st century, that a decidedly non-philosophical young woman from a small town would grasp and proclaim the awesomeness of God’s power in such a personal and intimate setting–discovery of pregnancy–would have turned long-time Jewish religious views upside down.
And PS – Leave it to Arrow to take the feminine view of things! To be frank, I have long seen the Magnificat as a likely later addition, from a more religious time when the Cult of Mary was ascendant, likely added even later than Nicaea in 325; but if it strikes Arrow this way, then perhaps it might be original to the Virgin after all. This is the sort of question that it is going to be fun to have definitively answered when we at last go home!
Agree about Arrow. Interesting to note that I have some reason to suspect that she is either a shaman or, the last “time” she experienced incarnation, probably 1,000 Earth years ago, she was the wife of a shaman in a tribal culture led not by chiefs but shamans called “dreamers” that gave women higher status than many of the neighboring bands of Atapaskans. In short, that’s just her!😉
Dear Mike, thank you for making this great point! I love it when someone does the research and shows us yet again the powerful effects of all the nuances among languages that can be lost in translation. Perhaps those words in the Magnificat are not as evil as I have long assumed them to be!
Still, though, the fact remains that English-speakers see that word, “fear,” as having a very specific meaning, and that sentence in its present form has been central to Christian understanding for centuries. My beautiful childhood church with its irreplaceable stained-glass windows was built two centuries ago. To me, this issue is yet more reason for those of us who seek to follow Jesus to strive to better understand HIS words, and His words alone!
Hi Guys. Speaking of research, there was a very interesting lecture by Rey Hernandez of the FREE organization in the latest Victor and Wendy Zammit newsletter about how people tend to assume the most fearful things about “Non Human Intelligences” even though the extensive evidence he presents points in the opposite direction. The reptilian part of our brains is always looking for lions behind every bush, which is useful as far as that goes, but it also tends to react the same way to anything transcendent or not quite of this world. In the old times it was angels, jinn, fairys, etc. The Bible, mostly OT is full of it. I can see how that fear could have been ascribed to Mary even if she didn’t actually feel that way. How many of our guides would actually fall into the category of non human intelligence? I’m starting to wonder about one of mine, but I won’t let it spook me.
By “non-human intelligences,” do you mean lower earth-based life forms? Or extra-terrestrials as well? The OT is indeed full of all sorts of fear-inducing ideas, to a degree that is actually horrifying!
Apparently I do have one non-human spirit guide, but he doesn’t spook me at all. He’s my wonderful horse, Beau ;-).
I wonder if some guides could be in that category, and why not, it would be the spiritual level they are at, not where they came from. Mr Hernandez likes that term because there is such a spectrum of what they could be, angels, ultraterrestrials, ETs, etc. Some want to turn them all into demons, but his group’s research shows mostly positive spiritual experiences, especially once people are past their initial “astonishment.” As you have said, lower spirits would have little power unless we give it to them through fear. Whoever wrote the Magnificat probably wanted us to fear all we hear except what the priests say. Likely intentionally, that line implies that God condemns all who are without fear, though it doesn’t actually state that. Going forward, based on Jesus’s teachings, as you have so beautifully illustrated, we should just take it as saying God will help those who are in fear, from generation to generation. That would turn the original author’s message on it’s head, wouldn,t it?
Thank you Raberta for sharing your knowledge. I just finished reading 2 of your books. My Thomas and the Fun Of Dying.
Reading the Gospels daily and intentionally loving and forgiving.
Hello dear Marilynn! Thank you so much for letting me know. I hope you enjoyed the books and found them helpful, and of course if you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask them! Putting the focus on loving and forgiving is of course the key to beginning to live a greatly enhanced and empowered life, and reading the genuine Gospel words of Jesus – what He said about love and forgiveness, but shorn of all the additions made by the much later church councils – is the key to living our best and happiest possible life. Good for you, and I hope you’ll be an example to others!
Thanks for responding. My niece took her own life. Can we pray her to a higher level or is it her journey?
My mother passed 10 years ago, I felt her around my dad this January for a month before he passed. I think I heard her say, “come on Jack its time to go” ? I am delighted he is experiencing spirit world. He was 93 , a good life here and a better life now.
Dear Marilynn, there is some evidence that your sending your niece love and prayers can help her to re-balance and to better grow spiritually, so no harm in trying! I love the story about your mother being around your dad for a month before he left at 93. So loving, lovely, and quite believable!
Thank you Roberta! I am your age. I went to 12 years of Catholic schooling.
I remember the air raid shelter signs on all the buildings as I walked home from school. I also remember the very loud blasting of the sirens for practice to go under our desks. All that fear & the wrath of God. It’s true, we never learned about Love, only our differences. If you weren’t a Catholic, you weren’t going to heaven. I love God. I no longer follow the church. The Catholic Church needs to obey God & fire the pope. We all need to honor God only & love one another. All of us. No more wars. Please all of us.
Heh – dear Carol, in the first draft of this post I talked about all the air-raid shelter signs, but then I removed that reference as maybe overkill. But you’re right! And the grown-ups would take mental note of where the shelters were whenever they entered a public building.
I smiled at what you said about the Catholic Church! I read it at diner time, so with a giggle I shared with my Catholic husband that the church needs to “obey God and fire the Pope.” Thank you for that!
And no more wars. From your mouth to God’s ears! In the end, though, it is going to be up to us. And we can do it. Now it begins!
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the Kingdom.”
Oh Roberta, can you imagine how Jesus felt ? He came to give His beloved flock freedom, Oneness and to bring them home.
Yet He found them so very lost, steeped in darkness and shrouded in fear.
How He must have felt !
You know, dear Efrem, I never gave much thought to the Lord’s personal feelings until I channeled Liberating Jesus. He was essentially in my mind for two weeks, and eventually I seemed to be hearing His thoughts as He wrote. What an amazing experience that was! For years afterward, I empathized with Him and felt compassion for what must have been his frustrations, perhaps more than I should have done, as if He were more like us; but I have been given to understand pretty emphatically that He is not so much like us, and I shouldn’t feel sorry for Him.
What was bugging me at the time was the way Christianity was altogether ignoring His words! I used to think His mission had been hijacked early on. Then one day it was made emphatically clear to me that I had no basis for assuming that Christianity had unfolded over the past 2000 years in any way different from precisely the way it had been meant to unfold. Thomas didn’t actually say that what has happened was precisely what had been planned, but he told me I should never assume otherwise.
So now I love Jesus, and I try discern and to follow His direction as precisely as I can; but I no longer feel sorry for what must have been His many frustrations over the years. He is a pretty Big Guy, after all, and He can take care of himself!
That’s quite an amazing reply you have gifted me.
Reading it over evokes so much. And I am glad in a way, not to assume that the last two millennia of Christianity was against what had been planned from On High. This makes a big difference somehow, and allows me to feel that Jesus has it all in hand. (No need to feel angst about the ‘lateness’ of the coming vibrational uplift.)
Thank you for sharing your personal journey here, Roberta. It makes your message so real.
I guess I too, can try to discern Jesus’ direction for me as clearly as I can. ❣️🙏🏼🌅
Dear wonderful Efrem, I did fret a bit after I had posted that response to you. I hoped you would take it as positively as I had meant it! But I needn’t have worried – you took it precisely as I had hoped you would. Thank you for this!!
I find it reassuring, too, to think that in fact things may well be unfolding according to divine design. In a reality without time, those 2000 years are giving us a set of spiritual stressors that we can incarnate into in order to better grow spiritually; and now, in the fullness of that same non-time, at last we can come together under the leadership of the Lord to altogether transform and uplift the world!
Thanks for your thoughtful and insightful post and for introducing us to your precious mother!
Doesn’t “fear” have more of the connotation of “reverence?”
Fear is an illusion; only love is real!
Hello dear Becki! I love your analysis of the meaning of the word “Fear”! When seen that way, it is indeed an illusion and it isn’t scary at all. Sadly, though, I have heard from a great many Christians over the years, and for them the fear that lies at the heart of Christianity has always been the old, scary kind of fear. Big-time! So it’s up to you and me to help them turn the terror in their minds into the more comfortable kind of “fear” that you suggest to us here. So we can then join all Christians together in the effort to save the whole world from fear!
Roberta, we are close in age and I remember the “duck and cover” drills. Living 45 miles north of Washington D.C. made the whole exercise a bit ridiculous, and the teachers treated it as such, so there was never any fear.
I was never afraid of monsters with one exception: the Invisible Man. There was something unsettling about someone watching and listening and you never knew it. It did not take long for me to ‘connect the dots’. Why do I say prayers, I would ask my mother. God can’t hear me. Of course He can, she replied. He’s everywhere and He can see and hear you. That’s all it took for me to fear Him. I mostly grew out of that, but not completely.
In today’s world it seems to me that fear is being pushed at us from multiple directions, primarily from politicians and the media. Love and respect is becoming increasing difficult. They say an invisible boggie man is everywhere. Maybe that is by design. I wish I could disengage the way you have, but… I’m working on it.
Dear Amanda, you make some wonderful points! And two in particular:
1) The notion that God is always spying on us instills fear in a lot of people, and we don’t even realize what a powerful source of fear it is! If God sees and knows everything – even your thoughts – then God knows how far from perfect you are. Good grief. You can’t control your thoughts enough to look close enough to being actually perfect, so no matter how you try, you are already doomed! And if God really knows your every thought, and the every thought of everybody else, then what else can God do with that kind of power?
The only way I could get past this creepy horror that religion instills in us was to abjectly surrender to God. Years ago I opened up the top of my head – so I was literally beaming my thoughts to God! – and I assumed that from that moment on I was sharing my every thought and action with God. I had no secrets anymore. It surprises me, looking back, to realize how completely my surrendering this way drove away my fear of God altogether! When I began to beam all my thoughts to God through that big open hole in my head, God began in turn to beam divine love to me through that much easier pathway. I never had realized before that time how completely and how gloriously I was loved!
2) The political climate worldwide has become so much more toxic that if you pay much attention at all to it, you are literally swimming in a fear-sewer. Dear Amanda, twenty years ago I watched a lot of political TV. My husband still does, every night – that was just the way we lived! I ended up giving TV up cold-turkey, but that was not the way I started out.
Instead, I gave it up the way you should give up any addiction. I first thought of all the things I could enjoy doing with all the time I was getting back, and then for that one day I didn’t watch TV. Then for the next day. I was spending my time in more enjoyable ways! And another day. I never said, “I’m giving up all TV forever!” I kept the power to live my life in my own hands; I always considered this to be just an experiment. But years later, in the midst of a presidential election, I realized that I hadn’t watched any TV at all in years! And meanwhile, I had written all these books….
I was thinking about the immigration situation that the United States struggles with at its Southern border, and how fear is the overarching issue. Fear of drugs, fear of criminals, fear of the unknown. The way immigrants are addressed as either “undocumented or illegal” makes such a difference in the ongoing dialog. I see the immigrants as the same as you and I, just caught in a very bad situation. I try to humble myself to their situation which I admit is quite difficult to do living in this country. But, if we greeted these people with love and compassion instead of fear, offering them asylum, letting them remain in tact as families, wouldn’t that story be so much more aligned with Jesus’ teachings? I think there is a misnomer in this country that everyone else in the world wants to flee their country and live in the United States, but most people in the world love their homeland and only want to leave when they have no other choice. Fear is at the root of anyone who distrusts or hates another.
I recently read this quote which resonates:
I heard someone say, “don’t cross oceans for people who wouldn’t cross a puddle for you. ”
Which I thought was good advice.
But then someone else said, “No, do it. Do cross oceans for people. Love all people. No conditions attached. No wondering whether or not they are worthy. Cross oceans, climb mountains. Life and love isn’t about what you gain, but what you give. ”
And I changed my mind.
Oh dear Tim, if only it were this easy! I feel as you do, that this nation should welcome and love all the innocent individuals and families in the world who are at risk in their native lands, and that Jesus would want us to do exactly that. No question. But what we have at our southern border now is frankly not that situation at all, and both political parties are equally to blame! Here are a few of the facts that I have learned in the course of trying to puzzle this out:
1) A LOT of drugs come across that open border now. I live in Texas, and the drug traffic through this state is such that my daughter has had to take her children out of the public schools here in order to protect them from the flood of hard-core drugs – not just pot – now infesting our school system.
2) Many of the men coming in are not refugees from oppression, but rather they are repeat offenders with criminal records. A lot of them are dangerous, and there isn’t enough time with all that is going on for the evil ones to be separated from the rest.
3) They are now DNA-testing children and the adults they enter this country with, and THIRTY PERCENT OF THESE CHILDREN ARE NOT RELATED TO THE PEOPLE BRINGING THEM IN. Instead, the (usually) single man with that child has stolen, bought, or rented the little one to use as an easy entry. Once he is in, he either abandons the child, turns it over to people who will rent it out again, or sells it into prostitution. The next time you hear how horrible it is that they are “separating families,” ask yourself whether all these little ones at risk don’t deserve to be protected from being used this way?
4) Nearly all immigrants are economic refugees. This was true of the Irish, Chinese, and others who came in numbers in the 19th century, and it was true of the Danish peasants who came just over 100 years ago and intermarried and produced yours truly. As such, few of those entering or remaining in this country illegally would qualify for asylum, but many of them certainly do qualify as probably wonderful new Americans!
Here is why both parties are at fault, in my view. This is very crudely put, but I believe nevertheless that it is sound. The SOLUTION would be to close the border with a mile-high fence if that is what it takes to discourage the horror that is our present mess, and at the same time to put out MANY new visa opportunities – a million per year; heck, five million per year! – and properly vet every new immigrant. Voila: we accept all the good ones, exclude all the bad ones, protect Americans already here, and end this horrific trafficking in children. Doesn’t that make sense to you?
If either political party wanted to do this, it would propose it. Americans would jump at it. So, why do the leaders of neither party ever even bring it up? Good question….
Thanks for your input on this issue. As always there is never a single answer to such a complex problem. As a former professor noted in our discussion on public housing problems, similarly, it is a “wicked problem.”
Thanks for your perspective on this issue – and yes, vetting is critical to allowing new immigrants into our country given the issues with drugs, human trafficking, and criminality.
I live in Southern California, and I personally do not see the issues in the schools, but I am sure they are there.
Dear Tim, I had no idea either! They never talk about it in the news. But when last fall I asked my daughter why her 15-year-old was going to Austin Community College rather than starting her junior year in high school, I learned that they were allowing high schoolers with reasonable grades to enter ACC and spend their last two high school years as college students in order to get them away from the drugs in the high schools. Then my granddaughter’s close friend of the same age ended up in drug rehab. What a mess!
At risk of over replying to your blog, I feel compelled to say this. 🤭
I love Tim’s point and your response on the border and immigration issue.
I agree with your solution Roberta, some of us in Australia have come to a similar one.
Yet our Government’s approach is proactive. (It’s easier for us because we are surrounded by sea.) The Federal Police target the people smugglers, often in neighboring countries to our north, by working with these governments. The joint police forces get the human traffickers before they put refugees on unseaworthy boats and send them across the sea to Australia.
It’s a balance of compassion and safety really, not that I think our present leaders have got that balance right.
As to who comes in, an old saying comes to mind when thinking of the criminal and fanatical ones (of course, they are a minority of refugees) who do try to immigrate by pretending to be good folk. You’ve got to be wise, not just clever:
“Intelligence is knowing that a tomato 🍅 is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in the fruit salad.” 🍇🍉🍓🍒🍌
But I’ll stop my political input here my dear. I have successfully managed to eschew all politics since I’ve turned off my TV ! 📺 And although my friends and family look at me strangely when I don’t know the latest current events, I’m much more peaceful and relaxed – more than I’d thought that I’d be. You see, giving up the political buzz has removed a pervasive sense of fear !
NB: You know, in your blog on cleaning the living room of our mind, you explained to me how you gently got your husband used to the fact that you no longer watched television. I didn’t tell you, but I thought the gradual, soft, loving, shepherding process you used was lovely !
You seamlessly guided him through your change without a ripple on the pond of love. I enjoyed reading that blog reply very much. 🌟
Oh my dear Efrem, perhaps eighty percent of the success of a long marriage lies in mastering the use of kindness and empathy in dealing with one another. He is as good at it as I am! Each of us knows what the other wants and needs in terms of both freedom and support, and we are careful and watchful about making sure that each of us is content with our lives. For one example, he is about to have surgery in Houston, which is hundreds of miles away. Being in that big, dirty city in summer is the last thing I want to do! And his surgery isn’t life-threatening. Still, he would like my support. So I’ll be going with him, but at the same time we both know that I will need to carve out time to work. Marriage is a dance. And after 47 years we have learned to do it pretty well!