Jesus’ teachings on fear may be more important than we recognize. We tend to think of “not being afraid”, a subjective attitude, as the focus of Jesus’ repeated commands. But perhaps, when he says, “fear not”, he is not just addressing subjective fear, but the full dethroning of aggression and military control. Matthew 10 contains the marching orders for the disciples for a wholly different agenda. They are to go out two by two as the Roman soldiers did, but not to collect taxes, but to rest peace on homes one by one. The spreading of peace – peace be with you – was one of the main proclamations of the gentle government of God, a deliberate extension of fearless peace, and as such it was also a public act against the militarism of Rome. There were consequences and opposition which would follow. Jesus said, “Do not to fear those who will kill the body” because that it what the military do to those who challenge their militarism. It is ironic that the peaceful have to be attacked, but that is what must happen for militarism to survive. Facing militarism is dangerous. The disciples would face conflict, even within families. Jesus dramatizes the point by saying, after insisting on the spreading of peace, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth, but a sword.” Why say that when he is requiring the way of peace? Because the War Against War will be like this. Because those who challenge the military system must be killed. Later, Christians to our day, would face horrific persecution and martyrdom for taking the way of peace, even from those close to them. Thus, the subtle War Against War And Weapons which Jesus lays out, where we are innocent as doves, but as shrewd as snakes.
We somehow ignore one of the central meanings of the Cross. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Gentle Man, had to be killed, because he was exposing the militarism of both the Temple Party and the Romans. The Cross is the ultimate weapon of militarism; it tortures and murders; it shows: “We can do this”. Pilate, largely against his will was forced to use the cross. Already, the followers of Christ had been told they were to take up their cross daily, take up this ultimate threat of the militarist and follow Christ. What could this mean? Jesus, the complete fighter for peace, is strung up on the Cross, because he is too dangerous to remain alive. Then with the resurrection, the Roman cross is defeated. Fear God and you will have nothing else to fear. Here, at the Cross, not on the battlefield, the victory is won, the victory of peace not of war. The fight is redefined for the rest of human history. We take up the Cross and become fearless.
Sadly, in the past we Christians have given in to military fear and allowed it to dominate us and dictate events. Perhaps now is the time for all Christians to move beyond fear into proper Christian bravery. Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East face acute direct threats on their lives with this bravery. we face far less. Of course, the fight is canny. Christians are not called to martyrdom. Jesus warned them about the coming dangers of the sack of Jerusalem in AD70 and his care was not to lose one of his disciples to death, save the suicide of Judas. We face few dangers and fear everything. We do not see the Fear induction done to us for what it is, a mechanism for keeping us in our place, subservient, intimidated, tribal, taxed and burdened. Jesus said “Fear not,” did not fear, not by bravura but through prayer in Gethsemane, and overcame fear. Christ’s fearlessness is the spiritual energy of disarmament, the place where we see the whole stupid intimidation system for what it is.
For we live need not live in the Fear Machine. Each day its messengers, paid by arms companies and the full military-industrial complex, tell us the dangers we face, and how they will rescue us and keep us safe. Much of the time these messages are lies, massive lies about the USSR in the fifties and sixties, scaring us with Saddam and the 45 minute warning when he was powerless, demonising Putin while pursuing NATO aggression in Eastern Europe and Ukraine. Meanwhile, this Fear Machine arms the world, selling weapons to almost whomever will buy, so that more people become afraid and buy more weapons, making yet more afraid. Devastation stalks the globe. We pride ourselves on our companies selling weapons, but then wars follow, with poverty, famine and destruction and we are surprised. The merchants of death “have the power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay one another”. Areas of the planet are destroyed and in the twenty-first century, when we can visit the moon and deconstruct matter, we remain barbarians with clubs, barrel and nuclear bombs. The states that run the United Nations on the “Security Council”, are the heaviest armed, the nuclear states, who run the weapons-selling system and disunite nations. How come, after two thousand years of Christ’s message and deliverance of peace to millions, and five hundred years after Lancashire and Yorkshire worked it out, Christians have not marched to Christ’s message of peace, when the cost is so small and the benefits so massive?
Part of the answer is that we have not addressed fear of those who can kill us. We have not faced down the military threat as Christ asks us to. We have not seen beyond the domination of the sword and understood Christ’s message, “Those who take the sword will perish by the sword”. We have allowed ourselves to buy, at great cost, the counter message, “Those who take the sword will win and be safe.” We bomb Iraq, then terrorists attack us and we are surprised. We, like most others, dwell normally in the culture of fear induced by the arms companies and the militarists. To take up and proclaim the Christian Good News of Peace involves a War on War and a War on Fear. It involves Christian fearlessness to fight war and the deconstruction of the Fear Machine, pumped out daily to keep us in our place. We all, you and I, must spread Christian fearlessness worldwide.