There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19
If you haven’t had a chance to see Disney’s Frozen, then you are missing out! Anna and Elsa show that true love can be found within our families – no prince required. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Elsa learns as a child that she has the power to create ice and snow. However, her parents are normal people and so she has no one to teach her about her powers or how to use them. Their plan is for her to hide her powers. Because of an accident with her little sister Anna, Elsa is afraid of her powers.
Flash forward several years and we are at Elsa’s coronation party. Elsa accidentally reveals her powers to the party guests and as her fear grows she ends up causing a terrible winter storm. She runs away and decides to live all alone, afraid to be around anyone for fear of hurting them.
In an attempt to get her sister to come home and end the winter weather, Anna goes after Elsa. Sadly she is hurt again, because Elsa is still afraid to return to a normal life. Anna is told by some friendly trolls that the only thing that will heal her is an act of true love.
Today I want to show how Frozen reveals a pattern that Christ helps us realize in real life. We can all be frozen in fear, kept from doing what God wants us to do. Through Christ’s love we can overcome these fears and through the Holy Spirit we can be empowered to live the life God has for us. We see this pattern in the life of the Samaritan woman that Christ meets at the well. I would like to read some of her story from the gospel of John so that we can see how she was frozen and exactly how Christ loved her out of her fears.
There are different kinds of fears. There are some fears that are good for us to have: a fear of spiders might keep us from getting bit. A fear of getting burned while cooking causes us to take extra precautions and wear our oven mits. Today, I’m talking about a different sort of fear. Some fears are unhealthy and prevent us from doing God’s work. We might be afraid of what people will think of us. We might be afraid that if we give our things or our time away, there won’t be enough left over for us.
Elsa has a fear of her power that has reached an unhealthy level. Her fears became detrimental to her life. They keep her from having a relationship with Anna and from fulfilling her duties as queen.
As I mentioned, I would like for us to look at the conversation Jesus has with a Samaritan woman at a well in a town called Sychar. In this story, we see the transformation of a woman who could have had many fears to a woman who is empowered to bring the good news to her entire town.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritanwoman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”21“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. John 4:7-10, 15-21
Like Elsa, the Samaritan woman that Jesus meets at the well is isolated. If we stick to the text, I can’t say truly that fear in particular was plaguing her. However, we do know that she was doing something that most women at this time would have done together, not alone. She goes to the well to draw water in the middle of the day. This is a chore that women would usually do at the beginning of the day. This Samaritan woman goes about this chore alone.
We also know her life had not been the easiest – she had 5 husbands and currently was living with someone she wasn’t married to. In this point in history, women had to be married in order to be taken care of – there was no ‘work outside the home.’ This is why there are laws in the Old Testament instructing men to marry their brother’s wives if their brother dies. This is how the widow would be cared for. So in this case, the woman probably lost her former husbands through death of some kind. It wasn’t a sin to be married 5 different times, it was just tragic and difficult. It was a sin to be living with a man she was not married to and this may have added to her shame and isolation.
With these details about her life, this poor woman could have had any number of fears! Perhaps a fear of abandonment from losing so many husbands. Perhaps she had a fear of getting close to others. Maybe she was afraid to go to “church.”
So, what’s the antidote for fear? We have all seen situations on TV where people expose themselves to their fear in order to overcome it. This might work for some fears, but not all. Consider the woman at the well. If she did have the fear of abandonment, I don’t think more abandonment would help the problem. The same with a fear of rejection or a fear of one’s special ice powers. Elsa continued to use her powers even though she knew they could hurt others. She decides at her coronation to remove herself from others and see how powerful she could be. However, the more she used her powers, the more afraid of them she becomes.
Until. An act of true love. When Elsa sees the extent of Anna’s love for her. When she sees that Anna is willing to give her life for her, she is changed forever. The answer for her fear is love. Anna’s love shows Elsa that she doesn’t have to be afraid. Her mistakes are forgiven. Love is the key to undoing the ice storm and allowing Elsa to use her powers to their fullest extent. She can now thaw the ice she created and bring back summer. In the end, Elsa is able to come back to her town and be the queen she was meant to be. Through love, she has learned to use her powers in ways that help others and not hurt them.
Let’s see how love affects the Samaritan woman.
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” John 4:25-30, 39-42
Like Elsa, the Samaritan woman is also deeply changed. In her isolation, she happens upon the God of love incarnate. We can learn a lot about how Jesus loves through this encounter. First of all, love listens. Jesus takes time with her, hears her questions: not just what she actually says, but also what she means. Secondly, love meets others where they are. Jesus doesn’t invite the woman to come hear him speak next week. He starts a conversation with her in the midst of her daily routine, not his. Fear keeps people isolated; in order to show them love, we have to go to them.
Third, Christ loves unconditionally. The woman’s testimony is that Jesus knows all about her. He knows everything “she ever did” and still he loves her and she feels that love through their time together. We can tell from their conversation that the Samaritan woman knows a lot about her religious history and about what the prophets foretold. She is a smart and talkative person. She is the perfect candidate to be the pastor of the First Church of Samaria. She just needed some love. And not just any love, the truest love that only comes from Christ.
The Spirit Empowers
The Samaritan woman spreads the word throughout her town that Jesus is the Messiah. She shares what he did for her and the townspeople come to meet him AND invite him to stay there for 2 days. Don’t forget, some towns chased Jesus away and threatened to stone him. Don’t forget, this is a Samaritan town – sworn enemies of Jewish people – and everyone knows that Jesus and his posse are Jewish. Through what the woman shares, the people’s hearts are softened. They are prepared. And many come to believe in Christ because of her story and her invitation to come and meet him for themselves.
A while back I came across 2 Timothy 1:7 and it has continued to stick out in my mind. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Wow! I tend to be a ‘timid’ person. I tend to be un-self-disciplined sometimes, when it comes to putting extra effort into studying and reading things I know God wants me to. But this verse has been my get-up-and-go verse. God doesn’t give us fear and timidity. He gives us power, love and self-discipline! At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given to all of us who believe in Christ. Jesus says that the Spirit will be with us always and will remind us of what he taught us. The Spirit reminds us of Christ’s love each day. Jesus promises that the Spirit will help us and live in us!
Each of us has fears. And each of us has the opportunity to know Christ and to know his love. When we are afraid, we can look to his love to help us overcome it. “Perfect love drives out fear!” Once we have overcome our fears, the Holy Spirit is present to lead us into action. We have our work cut out for us. There is so much pain and fear in the world. We don’t have to look very far. Once we have overcome our fears, it’s our turn to go out and show God’s love to others still living in it. Christ met the Samaritan woman in her town, at her well, in the midst of her daily routine. It’s our turn to do the same.
Elsa saw first hand an act of true love when her sister gave her life for her. Christ has given his life for each of us. The truest act of love that ever could be! Spend some time dwelling on this love. But don’t stay there. Allow Christ’s love to propel you over your fears and into what God is calling you to do.