Fear Landscape

Among the recent book-trilogy-made-blockbuster-movie phenomenon, the Divergent series actually has some thought-provoking insights into FEAR. Allow me to briefly set up the story and then look for some biblical insight into the same topic. 

Divergent is a dystopian novel set in a futuristic version of Chicago. The population is divided among 5 factions based on personality type and skill set. As the main character of the story, 16-year-old Tris (short for Beatrice) leaves the faction in which she was raised and chooses to become an initiate into the Dauntless faction - a group that prides itself on courage and serves as the city's law-enforcement. They are the guardians of the city's population. The final stage of Dauntless Initiation demands that each individual face his or her own unique "fear landscape," which is a virtual reality construction of a series of scenarios based on the individual's deepest fears. One of Tris's instructors (and eventually boyfriend...surprise, surprise...we have a love story in a young adult novel) is a young man known to fellow Dauntless members simply as "Four." As the story unfolds, Tris discovers the origin of his nickname. He has only four major fears. He only had to face four of them in his fear landscape. But what's remarkable is that Tris also sees first-hand that each of these fears are still extremely real for "Four." One is a fear of heights. Another is claustrophobia. He shares with Tris that the fear never completely goes away. The secret is learning to channel the forces that are stronger than fear. And that's how one overcomes even the deepest of fears.

The newly emancipated Israelites didn't need a virtual reality program connected to the sub-conscious self to conjure up a fear landscape. They had theirs literally right in front of them. It was described by a group of spies that were sent into the Promised Land of Canaan and came back with a message vividly painting a collective fear landscape (Numbers 13-14). Fortified cities. Advanced weapons. Large populations. Rough and mountainous terrain. Even warriors of non-natural size. And with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, this nation of "God's people" was anything but dauntless. They cowered to the daunting what-if-scenarios of doom aroused by the fear-mongerers. So God waited for a generation that would understand that genuine faith demands stepping out, even if those steps expose oneself to a degree of risk.

FAITH demands exposure to risk. To follow Jesus was a risk of status (for a Pharisee like Nicodemus or Saul of Tarsus), of wealth (for Zaccheus), of health and safety (for all the apostles). These are men with real fears of what they might lose, but their actions were governed by forces stronger than fear.  

And beyond just the concept of faith, you cannot LOVE without risk. If you consider all the what-if-scenarios, how many of our daily actions could contain some element of fear?

To enter into a marriage covenant is to open yourself up to vulnerability to a spouse.

To bring children into the world risks not only the life of a mother but also entails financial risk, risk of "happiness," and maybe even risk of heartbreak when that child's actions disappoint you.

The holidays are coming up. To travel to see family is a tremendous risk. Getting in a moving vehicle is the most dangerous action most of us take in a given day.

To interact with the homeless or those in poverty is a risk, right? What if this individual is violent toward me? And we don't want to go anywhere near the inner cities to engage the "dangerous" population, do we?

The reality is that ANY INTERACTION with others holds some degree of danger...of risk. 

But the main point we are making is this: Fear is present. Risk is reality. But we still do these things. We interact with people, we enter into marriage, we have children, we drive vehicles, we get on airplanes. We may even jump in a river to save some one who's drowning or run into a building on fire if someone is still in there. Why? The answer is because of LOVE. Love is the force that is stronger than fear. Love shouts louder than the fear-mongerers. Love does not play the what-if game. Instead it bears all things. It believes all things. It hopes all things. It endures all things. And love does not seek its own, including placing its own safety near the top of its priorities. If Jesus had personal safety near the top of his list, there would have been no cross. If He had been afraid of risk, then we would not have the scene of love in triumph over fear at Calvary.

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear..." (1 John 4:18)


To His Glory,


Caleb Cochran

Preaching & Outreach Minister

Rockville, MD