One of William Blake's best loved poems goes like this:
A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew by day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When night had veiled the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe stretched out beneath the tree.
William Blake, 1794
Our fear is like a poison tree that kills not only our joy but kills "the other." Bishop William Willimon asks this question in his book, Fear of the Other: "Is there anything more natural, innate, and universal than our fear of the other?" It is easier to fear than it is to love and maybe that is why we have so much fear in our world today. We tend to take the easy path rather than the hard one commanded by Christ, "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 the Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:43-45).
The Anglican writer and specialist in Celtic spirituality and monastic hospitality, Ester de Waal, always asks two simple questions of anyone aspiring to be a Christian: "Do people see Christ in us? Did we see Christ in them?" Fear blocks our ability to see Christ in others. It prevents us from loving our neighbor as we ought but most certainly our enemy as Jesus commanded. As the executive director of Lifeline Chaplaincy in Houston Texas says,
Fear causes an opposing political candidate or party to forecast certain doom and disaster. Fear fuels alienation, racism, sexism, and wars of all kinds. Fear of being robbed, attacked, or murdered creates defensive wall-building, and destroys common courtesy among strangers. Fear of real or media-conjured apocalypse leads to hoarding, mob mentality, or violent civil conflict . . . Fear that is out of balance, continually fueled by self-generated threats, is physically unhealthy, and spiritually restrictive. We are not created to live solely in fearful reactive mode. Stressful over-reactivity exacts an extreme personal cost. We pay dearly, Fearful living isn't living, it's merely surviving.
Jesus said "Do not be afraid." Jesus came to reveal and resolve the central and essential problem-humanity's tendency toward fear and hate. Love unlocks our fear and allows us to see into the heart of the "The other." I believe Christ is challenging those of us who call ourselves Christian to mirror God's love into the lives of others. There is enough fear and hate in our world. Maybe we should memorize this old mountain proverb as a mantra for our lives:
Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more.
Think about it!