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Fear Casts Out Love

by Tim O'Hearn

What would happen if a Muslim moved next door to me? I would greet you warmly, and offer to help you move in. In the afternoon, my wife would bring some food over to your house and she also would welcome you into our neighborhood. After you were settled in to your new home we would probably see each other from time to time working in the yard or shoveling snow. … What would we talk about? We would have to discuss the nature of God's revelation to man -- is the Bible God's final revelation to man or is the Koran? We both believe in the virgin birth of Christ, but how did He die? Was He really crucified for the sins of mankind? Did the Old Testament foretell the coming of the prophet Mohamed? Does the gospel of John refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles or to the coming of the prophet Mohamed? These questions could be discussed in a public forum and would show to the world the Christians and Muslims can discuss their differences, maintain their convictions, exhibit tolerance and be friendly all at the same time! Let us not judge each other by extremists. (David Padfield, Lecture to Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, August 12, 2000)

In contrast to what Brother Padfield said then, we have a number of preachers who currently oppose any sort of immigration of refugees (or anyone) from Islamic countries. It doesn’t matter that some of them are Christians. It only matters that some of them “might be terrorists.” The world has changed in the past twenty years. (Note that those remarks came before the events of 9/11/01.) Twenty years ago the odds were that most Christians had never met a Muslim, but would have had no problem doing so. Today in America, the odds are that most Christians have never met a Muslim, but many would be afraid to do so.

“Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 Jn 4:18) It seems the corollary is true as well; perfect fear casts out love. Refugees from Islamic countries are probably vetted more extensively than people requesting work or student visas from the same countries, yet Christian men and women are saying they don’t want to help these people. This makes one wonder whether they might have the same attitude about an immigrant from India (predominantly Hindu or Buddhist), Japan (Shinto), or Europe (strongly atheist). Would they be welcomed because there are no militant sects of those religions?

From Europe we hear stories about protests and violence perpetrated by Muslims. On the other hand, Eastern European Missions have been providing Bibles in Arabic and Farsi for refugees. Some of these people, when given a Bible and a welcome, when given food, shelter and basic necessities, have become Christians. When shown love, they have reacted with love.

God knew this tendency in people. Jewish law mandated equal treatment for immigrants and Israelites.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:34)

Christians are expected to do no less. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10) Jesus had an even more specific command, even in the face of an invading and hostile army. His command even implies that failure to show love to Muslim refugees or others we may even fear might indicate that we are not God’s children.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. (Matt 5:44-45)

Over the past twenty years we have indeed seen a change in the tactics of a few extremists. We have seen an increase in fear and in calls for American isolationism. We have seen changes in American Christianity. The world has changed; the Word has not.