Lenten Choices: Fear or Love?

When I begin to imagine what it would have been like to travel with Jesus as one of his original disciples, I can hardly fathom what it must have felt like just before that first holy week. Did any of them have an inkling of a clue for what was just around the corner? I suspect not…

Each time I read the gospel accounts of the events that precede the arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ, I’m struck by how rich and vivid are the stories. Beginning with Mary’s anointing of Jesus with pure nard, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem must have been a beautiful and majestic sight to behold. His cursing of the fig tree and cleansing of the temple are dripping with meaning and metaphor. His offering of a few more parables – two sons, wicked tenants, king’s son, ten virgins, and ten talents – are indications of his sharp mind and kingdom focus.

When Jesus repeats the great commandment, his reminder to love with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind are pointed directly to those who might be fearful in the coming days. Therefore, by the time the Passover meal is served and the foot washing begins, the traitor Judas leans more into his fear than his love for Jesus. The Lord’s parting words to his disciples embody endearing love and affection, and are in direct opposition to the fear that grips the heart of his brittle betrayer Judas and his befuddled denier Peter.

Fear and love so closely linked, and yet so far apart from one another. As the story progresses toward the crucifixion, fear is what guides the high priest, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod. Fear grips the hearts of Peter and Judas, the confused crowds, the mocking Jews, the flogging soldiers, and the angry bystanders. Fear is laced with frustration and confusion, irrational and unholy decisions, and unlimited, unmerited taunting.

As we review the accounts of Jesus’ final week of life and service, we too are drawn into the same basic choice: unholy fear or divine love? Will we be so wrapped up in the ways of the world that our ambitions and anxieties lead us instead to isolation and fear? Or, will we be so enveloped by the love of Jesus that our longings and desires lead us to worship and adoration?

The outstretched arms of love spread out for us on the cross are offered freely and generously so that we can know love that’s deeper than any ocean, higher than any sky, wider than any sunrise, and longer than any horizon known to this world. May the final legs of the journey toward the cross of Christ lead you to love like never before. Let the love of Jesus fill you up so that your deep reservoir is overflowing with gladness and joy. We love because he first loved…that’s the most compelling, life-transforming truth of all.

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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.