This last weekend I was at North Park Seminary presenting at their symposium on “The Idolatry of Security.” I approached the issue by comparing the responses to fear in two biblical stories that frame the Christian story of redemption – the garden of Eden and the garden of Gethsemane. In the first, Adam and Eve knew fear for the first time, and in response, they hid from each other (made clothes) and from God. In response to God’s queries, they passed the buck and, essentially, passed off the punishment of death (God had said: “if you eat of this tree you will die”) onto someone else (Adam: “she made me do it”; Eve: “the serpent made me do it:”). What I find remarkable is how well this story sums up for us all of our fears, for they all return in one way or another to the fear of death, the fear of the other, and our willingness to sacrifice the other to make ourselves safe.
In contrast, Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane feels fear for the first time (or at least the first time we read about it in the Bible), and instead of hiding and sacrificing the other for his own security, he subordinates his desire for safety – “let this cup pass from me” – to his desire to be faithful – “not my will but yours [God’s] be done.” In so doing, Jesus calls his followers to renounce the false security of violence and power and so to risk everything in order to gain everything – or, as he puts it, to lose life in order to find it. Jesus calls his followers to embrace an ethic of risk even as the culture of fear views risk-taking as morally questionable. Jesus calls his followers to participate in God’s economy of gift in such a way that the blessings poured out upon them continue to circulate, not only across the differences of gender, race, tribe, and nation, but across chasms of fear and through walls of hate.