Fear is not the only force at work in the world. When The United Methodist Church proclaimed this biblical truth by posting a building-size banner near Ground Zero in New York following the 9/11 tragedy, the church spoke not only to passersby but to the world.
By projecting its voice into the global conversation at this critical moment, the church brought reassurance and hope that despite the fear the terrorists hoped to instill there is an alternative way to view the world. The church took the message of the gospel into the streets, as Wesley did when he started the Methodist movement.
The biblical basis for this claim is 1 John 4:18,19, “perfect love casts out fear.” This brief passage is a remarkable teaching about the power of love, and its ability to overcome fear. God’s perfect love casts out our fear.
The 2011 Global Involvement Survey by United Methodist Communications reveals that fear of terrorism has not really taken root as a major force among United Methodists in the U.S., nor a majority of the society. Twice as many people (32%) are concerned about the state of the global economy as are concerned about terror (16%). Undeniably, this economic concern includes a great deal of uncertainty, if not fear, but, as a church and as a society, we are not particularly bound by our fears. I take hope in this.
As I reflect on 9/11 and how it has affected us, I am reminded that the crisis compelled us to see the world and our place in it differently. The old polarity of local and global no longer holds. We live in an interconnected world in which circumstances affecting people far away can have direct effect upon us. Approximately 60% of those surveyed agreed that the world is a more interconnected today. Like it or not, we are citizens in a global environment.
The research also reveals a challenge. We understand connections close to home better than we understand how global interconnections affect us. That’s understandable, but it does place responsibility on us as disciples of Jesus to think of the world as our parish, as John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement said, and to see how the local and global are intertwined by the bonds of God’s love for all.
I think the tragedy of 9/11 awakened us to a new global reality. The future is neither local nor global, it is glocal, a term that captures a wide range of activities of friendship, kinship and commerce, according to its Wikipedia entry.
Nor is the future something of which to be afraid. As local and global are intertwined, we are given the opportunity to express our faithfulness and discipleship in the dynamic mix of this divine symmetry. We live in God’s Creation under the reign of God. This is both spiritually comforting and has practical application. As we do ministry locally and globally, we gain understanding of our place in God’s Creation and discover the wondrous beauty of the whole.
I thank God that we need not live fearfully in the world, but that we are called to love the world boldly. And I’m thankful that Wesley called us to have the vision to see the whole world as the place for us to do ministry.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it…Psalm 24:1-2.
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