Scripture is filled with holy opposites. Divine paradoxes. In 1 Kings 12 we find Solomon's son, Rehoboam, placed in power. He is given two recommended courses of action. The first came from wise and esteemed advisors of his father who counseled him to affirm his rule by having compassion on his people. By heeding their needs and, in a sense, serving them, love would win their favor. The second course of action came in stark contrast to the first and was offered by those young men who knew him best. They suggested that to distinguish himself as a powerful ruler that he should rule with ruthlessness, inspiring fear in the people and winning allegiance out of self-preservation. When he ultimately chooses the second, it costs him half the kingdom.
While few of us have the opportunity to rule nations, we find ourselves in similar circumstances. The quest for whatever we are hoping to gain or accomplish- be it a position, favor in a certain group of people, or a number of other things- can be driven by love or fear. When we are driven by fear, we spend countless amounts of time and energy fearing how things could go wrong, trying to make ourselves irreplaceable to others, or using sheer will power to attempt to accomplish something. Just like the fear-driven response was provoked by the friends closest to King Rehoboam, our fear response is usually triggered by the closest voice to us...our own.
The opposite of fear is love. We know this because while fear cries to hold on to everything for fear it will be lost, love pleads to give everything because in giving there can be no loss. Fear's responses can seem powerful, but the quiet, humble response of love carries the ultimate power. When we are motivated by compassion and desire to serve regardless of what we could lose, we are moving with the heart of God. Rehoboam could have lost the kingdom if he showed softness and compassion. Because of his fear that this might happen, he responded in harsh defensiveness instead. While we will never know what would have happened had he heeded the wise advice of responding in love, there is a good chance he would have ended up ruling over the entire kingdom that his father Solomon did, rather than the ultimate division that ensued after his decision. What places in your life are you yielding to fear over love? I challenge you this week to respond in a different way in at least one of these areas. As you lay yourself down in humility and love, you get out of the way of the favor of God that is trying to flow through your life. As you do this remember this divine paradox; “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12