And with all this “terror” round about us, what is the antidote to fear? Oddly enough, not courage, not even faith, but love. When the shots ring out and the doors lock down, we do not hold on to bravery, but to love.
“Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:8)
Bravery alone steels itself for the onslaught to come. Love puts on the armour of God and sets out to do good. To be sure, this making vulnerable takes courage, but bravery must be put in service of this end if it hopes to be a virtue.
To put our hearts in lockdown – this is the true tyranny of terror. To hide our faces from the other, to stockpile hate, to execute hope – this is the victory of darkness. But hearts in love are free from fear, for love’s end is always, eternally life. Hearts in love are free to give unconditionally and serve sacrificially, because they are secured in a reality stronger than death.
Love is the only thing which will loosen fear’s grip. If we are afraid, the first thing we must do is find some way to love – love concretely, love generously, love in new and strange and difficult ways – because it’s the only way we will ever face the last thing when it comes.
Love your child, love your neighbour, love your enemy’s child. Make a cake, make a peace offering, make a friend. Say a prayer, send a letter, start a movement. Give your stuff, give up your seat, give your life. Where fear blows a hole, step in. What we need most now are love’s boots on the ground.