Fighting Fear When Violence Strikes Close to Home

I was going to a play date for the first time at my Muslim friend’s house. I’ve never felt afraid before, but today was different. What if I was wrong about her intentions?

It had been nearly one week after the horrible shooting in Chattanooga. Many here are asking the typical questions. Why did this happen? How could this happen? But those aren’t exactly the right questions when we remember our world is deeply fallen, captive to sin and death. This is a temporary place. Sin abounds and it’s only the grace of God that holds it back in each of us.

Who is capable of being a murderer? Any of us. We are all born with a sin nature. We all need a Savior to rescue us from that. We all need hope. We all need the gospel.

Fear Now Abounds 

I am saddened because a Muslim extremist, who lived in my city, grew up in my small suburb of Hixson, a person I likely shopped alongside, committed a terrible act of violence. No one saw it coming, not even his family. But as the investigation reveals more and more of the mind of this young man, we learn he was on the slippery slope of drugs and alcohol. He was shamed by a DUI arrest. He was seemingly desperate enough to google the word “martyrdom.” He was looking for a way to absolve his sin, and he found an extremist on the web ready to tell him how.

Did anyone ever take the time to share the good news of the gospel with him? To tell him that Christ took all our sin? That Christ loves us and died for any who will believe? That there is no shame or condemnation or weight of sin for those who believe because Jesus took them all away? If those were the answers he found, things may have turned out differently.

Fear now abounds. Muslims in our community are afraid. People here are choosing to believe words arising from fear and hate. Instead of seeking to understand, a well-known public voice said we should not allow Muslims to enter our country. What happened to loving others to Christ by sharing the hope we have in him? How will they hear if we don’t love? This is an opportunity to show them the love of Jesus.

I work with Muslim people, helping them learn English and adjust to society in America. I love them. They are my friends. They have hopes, dreams, and desires just like me. Yet, because of all I am hearing, when it was time for me to go to my Muslim friend’s house this week, I felt afraid. If I’m feeling it, I know others are as well. The best way to handle fear is to confront it, so I had an open dialogue with my friend.

My friend attends the same mosque as the killer and his family. She is friends with the mother and family. She is saddened for them. She is saddened for the families of the people who were killed. She is also afraid to go outside. People are paying more attention to her. A police officer approached her in Walmart. He seemed friendly, but she couldn’t understand all he was saying because her English is not yet strong. Some would say these people need to leave our country, but why is she here in America? Because she was a refugee. She had to leave everything after her husband risked his life to help the U.S. military in her country. Does anyone take the time to learn this about her?

Fighting Fear 

We had a good dialogue, bringing our fears out in the open. She told me this young man was not a Muslim because real Muslims don’t use drugs. I’ve said the same about so-called Christian groups like Westboro Baptist Church. They don’t truly represent Christ.

The fact remains: all people need a Savior. All are looking for hope in different places—whether it’s my Muslim friend trying to let her good outweigh the bad in her life or my atheist friend who just tries to live a good life for the sake of humanity. What I learned about fear was this: we never need to be afraid of loving those who are different from us. “There is no fear in love,” the apostle John writes. “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

Fear has to do with punishment. Because Jesus Christ absorbed all the punishment of God for us, we need never fear. Could my friend really be part of a sleeper cell ready to attack at any moment? Perhaps, but that’s unlikely. Love has never been convenient. There are risks when you love anyone, but Jesus would have us move toward others, even those who are different. His perfect love will cast out the fear inside us and in turn we will be willing to love others, especially those who need a Savior.

Risky Love  

Loving those who are different is not easy. It’s a sacrifice, but Jesus did it for us. When he came to rescue us, we were all lost in sin. We were “risky” for him, even to the point of crucifixion. Yet he entered into a world filled with filth, and willingly laid down his life in love. This is how we share Christ with those desperate for saving grace.

Remember this as you seek to love both your neighbors and your enemies: Christ died for you while you were still his enemy. We must follow in his steps and trust him as our help, our rock, our shield. He will enable us to go to hard places, to move toward hurting people. He didn’t discriminate, and neither should we.

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