On Being Afraid of the Wrong Things.

There are a lot of things I fear. Like windows without blinds (seriously) and heights.

And there are a lot of things I do not fear. Fear Ladder

Like Muslims.

I’m also not afraid of Buddhists or scientists or flying spaghetti monsters.

I’m not afraid of questions or doubt or skepticism.

I’m not scared of any government or capitalist or communist. I’m not even afraid of Trump.

I’m not afraid of refugees or illegal immigrants or legal ones.

I do not fear gay people or trans people or people we can’t categorize in neat and tidy ways.

Along the same lines, I’m not afraid of finding someone in the “wrong” bathroom. I’m just not.

I’m not afraid of political correctness or laws that make room for other people’s belief systems.

I’m not afraid of the super rich or the desperately poor, people on welfare or people in penthouses.

In my greatest moments I’m not even scared of those who wish me harm or those who tell me I’m wrong.

I do my best not to be afraid of people who don’t look like me, act like me, speak like me, or believe like me.

I am, however, afraid of the way I and others like me misrepresent Jesus. I’m afraid people may reject Jesus because they see me and decide if this is what Jesus is about, they want no part of it.

I’m afraid the Kingdom of Me is a whole lot more appealing than the Kingdom of God. I fear that I seek first my reputation and status and rights. I’m scared to think that I would chose safety and security or comfort and complacency over faithfulness.

I’m afraid our commitment to political opinions is stronger than our willingness to “love your neighbor as yourselves.” I’m afraid that our quest for power and position and privilege leaves us overlooking the very people for whom Jesus would be most concerned.

I’m afraid I don’t have enough friends who are prostitutes or tax collectors. I’m fearful I exclude outsiders and those whose lives look messy. I’m afraid I too easily look down on or insult those who look, act, and believe differently.

I’m afraid all our boycotts and clever memes and FWD: FWD: FWD: emails (and blog posts) will do nothing to bring about the world God desires. I’m fearful that we’ve traded Good News for bad news, an eternal perspective for a temporary one.

I’m afraid that I desire to be right more than I desire to be loving.

I’m afraid that when we respond in fear to people, politics, religions, and whatever things are different than us, we are not responding in the way of Christ. I’m afraid that fearing “the other” will leave me only loving myself.

Most of all I’m scared I will raise my kids to be afraid of the people they are called to love. I’m afraid I will so want to save my children’s lives that they will lose the only life that matters in the process.

That terrifies me far more than terrorism does.

As a general rule I avoid ladders and roofs and other things from which the greedy hands of gravity wish to remove me. My discomfort with heights is stronger than my desire to have clean gutters. My fear wins out.

Since fear often determines my behavior I want be sure to fear the right things.

I want to avoid division and exclusion. I want to build bridges, not walls. I want to learn from people who see things differently. I want to hear the stories of those I don’t understand. I want to break bread with people who have dreams and fears of their own; people who have value to my God. 

I long to set aside things I want in order to serve and love the people everyone else seems to fear. I don’t want any part of pushing people away because they vote or live or believe differently than I do. I want less of “us and them” and just a whole lot of “us.”

When we do that we’ll all be better for it. When we do that we’ll look more like Jesus, who fears none and loves all. And I believe when we look more like Jesus everything changes. And when everything changes, there will be nothing left to fear.

On Fear & Faith

It starts in a garden. In paradise a man and woman are given everything they could ever want. Yet, they are afraid. They are afraid they are missing out on something even greater. They do the one thing they were told not to in hopes of finding out what they were lacking. They are cast from their paradise and confronted with a world far from what was originally intended. Later one of their sons will murder his brother in a jealous rage.

A husband and wife, unable to have children, are promised God will give them a son and a great lineage. Impatient and fearful it won’t happen in time they take matters into their own hands and a servant girl is brought in to conceive the child, causing great pain and friction in the family.

Recently freed slaves, when faced with what they think are insurmountable odds, ask to go back to chains and forced labor. Imagine desiring to return to slavery. The unknown is too great. The fear in the air is suffocating.

Later, after 40 years of nomadic wilderness living and daily godly provision, the people are unsure they should follow God into the land promised them. It is full of strong, warrior men and, well, look at us. Let’s just wander around a little while longer.

Sometime later a group of fishermen panic in the midst of storm, forgetting that the Son of God is on the boat with them. They are fearful that they will drown. They are rebuked, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

One of the fisherman later denies even knowing the Man. He is afraid his outcome will be similar to that of his rabbi’s. He flat out lies to a young girl in order to save his own skin.

After the Man is tried and beaten, crucified and sealed in a grave his followers all hide behind locked doors. They had seen him heal the sick and raise the dead and feed the multitudes. They had followed and learned from him for three years and now, unsure of what to do next, they are deflated and afraid.

Fear is a part of our story.

The people of God have for all time faced scary, difficult, bigger-than-we-can-handle situations. It seems almost on purpose. As if God is saying, “The only way through this situation is if I show up and help you through.” Perhaps God wants us to find our way into a faith that is stronger than fear.

He wants us to trust him. To trust that he is with us. To believe that the things he has called us to are worth doing. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it is costly. Even when we are afraid.

The question then becomes, does God win or does fear? Do we go into the world believing that this is too much for us to handle and believing that’s exactly how God works in our lives? Or do we justify our inaction, our disobedience, because, well, look at us? It is too much. Too hard. Too messy. Too scary. Do we lock ourselves in our homes and churches hoping that if just hold on long enough we can escape all this mess free and clean?

God wants more for us than that. More than survival. More than comfort. More than salvation. He wants to walk with us. He wants to teach us and shape us. He wants to use us to change the world.

If we let fear hold us hostage we miss out on what God could do. We rob ourselves of seeing God do what God does best.

Ours is a God who parts seas and defeats giants and quiets storms. He gives strength to the weak and comfort to the broken-hearted. And best of all, ours is a God who defeats death.

The Man who had been crucified and buried doesn’t stay buried. He doesn’t stay dead. He is resurrected. Jesus Christ conquers sin and death and darkness not by avoiding them but by entering right into the midst of it all and overcoming them through obedience and love. A love that is sacrificial enough and deep enough and courageous enough to follow through all the way to the end.

And those followers of his, the ones locked behind their doors, something changes in them. They are no longer fearful. With death defeated, with a risen Savior, what could possibly cause them to be afraid? They ask, “If God is for us, who can stand against us?”

They leave their upper room and go out into the streets and to the ends of the earth taking with them their story. They call it the Good News. They walk into cultures that are dark and violent. They are beaten and jailed, shipwrecked and snake bit. They leave jobs and families, they leave comfort and wealth. They leave security and predictability. To be right on the edge of what God is doing.

It costs them everything. All but one of the twelve male disciples of Jesus will be killed for their faith. The other is exiled for the remainder of his days. And it was worth it.

Being a part of the redemption story is always worth it. Obedience to something that is hard and scary and bigger-than-we-can-handle is worth it. This is where God has called his people to live over and over again. These are the places were God is most active. And these are places where God is always faithful.

Fear is an enemy to faith. And I don’t want to be afraid one minute more.

I will not be afraid of missing out on something better. I will not be afraid of missing out on my plans. I will not fear the unknown. I will no longer be afraid of my enemies or those I don’t understand. I will not fear the storms and circumstances that swirl around me.

I will say yes to whatever looks most like Jesus. I will be obedient even when it costs me. I will not ask “what if something goes wrong?” and instead ask “what if God shows up?”

I will no longer be a slave to fear.