Michael Minkoff Jr. recently wrote a post entitled Three Keys to Success that Oppose Faith, Hope, and Love. In it he contrasted the world’s “keys to success” with the Christian’s. The article was excellent, but there was one point I wanted to expand on: his discussion of love, fear, and self-preservation.
Love and Fear
Fear says that the highest good is the immediate good of self, sometimes extended to those we can see ourselves in. If you are going to make a mistake, fear says, better that it hurt “the other” than hurt the self. So fear tells the police officer it’s okay to shoot first if he perceives a potential threat. Better to mistake him for a dangerous criminal and be alive than mistake him for an unarmed citizen and suffer harm…
That doesn’t mean the virtuous person is suicidal or irreverent. But many people will see him that way. Without fear to guide him, he may invite possibly dangerous immigrants into his country or home with the goal of exercising love even toward those who might betray his good intentions. He might refuse to vote for a candidate he doesn’t believe in even when everyone is screaming about the apocalyptic nightmare he’s ushering in by not voting against the other guy. He might quit a well-paying job if it interferes with his ability to love his family or pursue his calling. He might speak up when a pastor is abusive, even when everyone else tells him, “Don’t rock the boat.”
Some of Minkoff’s examples here might stick in your craw. It seems wrong to say that people shouldn’t act out of self-preservation, especially as policemen or policy-makers. But there’s an important distinction here that I want to make, especially since it ties into some Facebook discussions I’ve had recently.
Self-preservation is not the Christian’s highest duty. It is a Christian duty, to be sure. God created us in His image (Genesis 9:5-6), and He declares that “for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning.” But some things are more important than even life itself. And if our self-preservation is driven by fear, we will abandon these higher duties.
Fear is the wrong motive for self-preservation.
Fear is what causes a hasty shot that ends with an unarmed man lying dead in the street. It clouds judgment and drives bad, even evil, decisions. We cannot let fear drive us.
But if not fear, what should be the Christian’s motive for self-preservation?
It is, naturally, fear’s opposite: Love.
Love Your Neighbor
Christians do not fear death for ourselves. We have a reward waiting for us that is far greater than anything we have here on this plane. But our passing impacts others: we leave behind responsibilities, dependents, and loved ones. Self-preservation, then, can be an act of love to those around us. In the same way, voting for “self-preservation” as a nation can be an act of love to our neighbors: we do not want to see our fellow citizens killed by dangerous immigrants or oppressed by evil rulers.
True love casts out fear. It is courageous. True love puts the good of others before its own. It is willing to risk its own life, even to die, to do what is right.
May this ever be our motivation.