Does fear make people cruel? (@Seeking1st)

Jeremiah …

Shocking details were recently published about brutal treatment of al-Quaeda suspects detained as part of the American CIA programme between 2002 and 2007 in the wake of 9/11. Will lessons be learned from this, not just by the USA but by all of us? When we are afraid do we react in ways that create more fear and distrust of one another?

The Biblical prophet Jeremiah experienced the pain and cruelty caused by those who feared him or rather what he said. Jeremiah kept on delivering God’s message that the people’s wrong ways had and would lead to disaster. No wonder Jeremiah moaned to God as @TheAletheophile pointed out in an earlier digidisciple post inspired by Jeremiah this month.

It was fear that caused the sentinel Irajah to arrest Jeremiah and fear that led officials to beat and imprison him. They suspected Jeremiah of deserting to the enemy – the Chaldeans, who had been besieging Jerusalem (Jeremiah 37: 11 – 21). King Zedekiah was sympathetic to Jeremiah and ordered a loaf of bread to be given to him daily while he was detained, until all the bread in the city was gone. So far, so not too bad, for this unpopular prophet whose life had been threatened so many times. However, worse was to come. Powerful officials persuaded the king that Jeremiah’s words were too dangerous and therefore he should be killed.

“So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. Now there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.” Jeremiah 38: 6

The likely outcome was death from thirst, starvation, or drowning if the rains came and filled the underground cistern. Jeremiah must have felt extreme fear at this cruel and inhuman treatment. You could say it was Jeremiah’s own fault. After all he had just prophesied that those who stayed in Jerusalem would die by violence, famine and disease. Not an encouraging message to hear. Are you wondering what happened next to Jeremiah? You can read about his rescue in Jeremiah 38: 7 – 16.

Why didn’t Jeremiah keep his head down and keep quiet? Well, he had tried to back out in his youth when God first called Jeremiah as “a prophet to the nations”. He had a good excuse,

“…I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy”. (Jeremiah 1: 6)

As if God did not know that! God understood Jeremiah’s fear but commissioned him anyway to go to whom God would send him and speak what God commanded. He was given this promise,

“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1: 7 – 8)

World-wide there is nothing new about people subjecting others to unjust imprisonment without trial. There is nothing new about cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners. It was not new when Jeremiah was imprisoned, beaten and then abandoned in mud at the bottom of a well. And we have not learned all the lessons from history since. We have not learned that the most powerful antidote to fear is not brutality, but love, the sort of costly perfect love seen in Jesus, whose coming among us we are preparing to celebrate at Christmas. Would the best way to celebrate be to share that love and not just at Christmas? The really big question is how?

About Nancy Wallace

Blogs as Seeker ( Tweets on Twitter as @Seeking1st. Church of England minister and grandmother, struggling to learn to pray, paint and play.