Saint Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church

1 St. Francis Drive - Gulf Breeze, Florida 32561
From The Rector

The Rev.
Tim Backus

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 

Fear…Fear is the strongest emotion that can limit our potential. Often, fear is the emotion we find when we dig below other emotions. When we dig deeper into the self, when we dig underneath that fear; we find true love. This is where God dwells and where God calls us to be. 

Finding the love of God within our inner self and that of another is hard. Regardless of how many passages of Scripture we may read about love such as 1 John 3:11, “The message you have heard from the beginning is this: we must love one another,” or from Jesus himself according to the Gospel of John, “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ right? 

Unfortunately, love can be hard because authentic love forces us to become vulnerable. The love of Christ calls us to love on the inside and express that love to the outside world. Loving thy neighbor as thyself and loving thyself as thy neighbor. Both according to the command of Jesus as mentioned above. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ And this means allowing one’s self to feel loved by God. Sins and all. 

The love that Jesus shared with his disciples and continues to share with us through the Spirit is a love of vulnerability; a love that is unconditional. Unconditional love is free. And freedom is the opposite of control. One who is free, is “…not under the control or in the power of another…” which includes not just other people, but freedom from our own self. Fear keeps us contained. Christ sets us free. 

Loving people who are very different from us often attaches a common human response: ‘You are not like me. Become like me, and maybe we can be neighbors. Be like me, and maybe I will love you. I need to know you first.’ This expression of love is created out of control, not out of vulnerability. Fear, not freedom. This form of love is very conditional, and demanded by one’s own terms, disregarding that of our neighbor. 

Being vulnerable to experience the unconditional love of God can be very difficult. We may find barriers within ourselves that, over time, we have erected in order to protect our vulnerability. Vulnerability makes us feel too open, uncomfortable and almost powerless; as if we are on display to the world. If we are intentional and able to dig through the barriers of the self, the defense mechanisms constructed to protect ourselves from feeling pain, sorrow and rejection, we may find that we are able to love beyond the limitations we had always believed, and experience the freedom to love without condition. This is only possible through Christ with the Holy Spirit who dwells within us at the core of our inner being. 

Jesus freely offered himself to the world, freely vulnerable upon the cross. Control has its limits. Letting go of control means letting go of fear; accepting vulnerability and living into freedom. Loving without limit, just as Jesus loves us. Amen. 

* Dictionary definitions are according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2019.