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Fear is often a defining factor of one’s faith. If there’s anything I’ve found to be consistently true over many decades, it is this reality.

Often, I quote my friend, Bill Tillman, a fine Christian ethicist, who would say to his students, “Tell me something about your fears, and I will tell you something of your theology.”

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes’ magnifying glass to see that deeply held and passionately expressed religious convictions are often rooted in one’s controlling fears.

This is especially true of the beliefs and practices that seek to restrict grace and withhold mercy – with an assured sense of having found divine directives that escape most others. Such fear-produced faith tends to see enemies in the unfamiliar and to attribute God’s blessings to what are really self-interests.

Therefore, that which someone perceives as threatening becomes an indicator of how a person’s religious beliefs are shaped and expressed. To uncover such realities requires no more forensics than easy-to-observe assessments or, more constructively, honest introspection.

Easter, however, has the full capacity to remove the strangling hands of fear from the necks of our lives and, therefore, from the formation of our faith. It did so that first resurrection morning and its power over fear has not relented.

Sadly, not all who revel in the resurrection will readily give up the controlling role of fear in daily living. Some actually find comfort in their fears – a fear of those unlike them, a fear of change, a fear of being wrong.

Easter resolved the crippling fear that death is the final word. It was history’s most life-giving moment with the power and potential to put fear in its proper place. It simply requires enough faith to believe that God’s grace is sufficient in the unknown.

To be post-resurrection people is to refuse to allow fear to regain its foothold in our lives – no matter how hard those who invade our daily attention with hatred and fearmongering seek to resurrect it.

If my social media scanning is any indicator, it is often those bearing the name of the resurrected Christ who seem most firmly held in the grasp of fear and who use fear as justification for demeaning others, limiting mercy and rejecting justice.

Such resurrected fear is in clear opposition to the life and teachings of Jesus. The tomb of despair, defensiveness and defeat should not hold us captive.

We live and die with our choices. We either reject the power of fear over our lives or lose the power of resurrection.

The hopeful words of the angel to the women at the tomb – “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5) – were meant for more than that most-eventful morning. They form the consistent, hopeful and freeing message that emanates from the biblical revelation and that Jesus himself stated so clearly.

It should not be overlooked that those faithful women of Easter morning were entrusted with the very news that can overcome all fears. While other disciples were paralyzed and confined by fear, they were at the right place at the right time to hear these hopeful words and to encounter Jesus afresh.

How about us? Do we cower in our fears or cast them aside by putting ourselves in the risky places where we are most likely to encounter the living Christ?

Are we gripped by unfounded fears that panic-producing preachers, politicians and media provocateurs dispense loudly and widely for their benefit?

Or do the words and ways of Jesus compel us to live in the freedom of the resurrection expressed by faith, hope and love?

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