Nelson Mandela once said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Well, I assume he said it, because, you know, I read it on the Internet. If he didn’t say it, I’d be surprised, because it sounds like something he would have said. (And don’t worry, I’m sure he meant it to apply to women, too.)
There is wisdom in those words.
Each of us has fear over something – maybe even every day. But whatever the subject matter is, we all, from time to time, feel afraid.
To be sure, the current global pandemic has placed fear in a lot of people. In some ways, I don’t blame them; the Coronavirus is an Unknown Entity in so many ways, and none of us – not even the experts – have been down this road before. And as parts of the world and parts of our world begin to open, that may strike even more fear into some.
The good news for followers of Jesus is that conquering fear – that to which South Africa’s great freedom fighter commended us – is eminently doable, because we have the Holy Spirit living in us and through us.
In 1 John 4.16b-18, we read, “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” (NLT).
More often than not, I hear that read as the second-most-favourite Bible passage used at weddings. But, like its first-place neighbour, 1 Corinthians 13, the context for the passage is not a wedding, even though each passage applies in that kind of setting. Of course, its context also was not a global pandemic (unless you count sin as a global pandemic, and that’s certainly legit!). But the principle fits.
Focus with me on one phrase: “perfect love expels all fear.” Perfect love is the love with which God loves us, the love that sent his only Son to the cross for us, the love that brought him back from the dead, the love that sent the Holy Spirit on his followers with tongues of fire. That love, Christian friend, lives in you and me. And that love expels all fear.
It’s easier to say than it is to live out, however. Our minds easily get caught up in fear over any number of life situations. But when we remind ourselves of God’s great love for us, and our desire to follow and serve him in the power of the Holy Spirit, he will cast out all fear.
Being rid of fear certainly shouldn’t rid us of caution. Just because we’re called to live in love and not in fear doesn’t mean we should be stupid. But it does mean we can rest in the confidence that God goes ahead of us in solving whatever dilemma causes us fear.
I have no idea if Mandela knew the Lord. But the best way to conquer fear is to let him do it through the Holy Spirit.