I have been surmising another great evangelical heresy; fear! No matter how many times we read about Jesus saying “Do not be afraid” we are still trapped in a paranoid of fear. It is incompatible with the theology of grace and also debilitates the follower of Jesus to follow. Recently I have watched it raise its ugly head in a few different places.
“What songs can we not listen to?” That is a question that I am not sure I understand the premise of. It is a frequent response when I do presentations on “healthy songs on your iPod.” It suggests that we are more interested in making sure we don’t do wrong instead of concentrating on the possibilities of our Christ won freedom.
Can we go to pubs or not? It is an age old question in Northern Ireland. It is another symptom of our cowering in fear rather than living the dynamic liberty of the Christian faith. There is a fear that we might fall that exposes a more fundamental fear that we are not sure if God is stronger than the devil and if we really can do all things through Christ, as Paul suggested to the Philippians. And pub going is only one of a whole host of fears that cause evangelicals to worry about so much minutiae. As Jesus said, we chew a lot of gnats while swallowing great big camels!
Lastly, a recent chat with a young believer had me struggling to break through his theological speak to find his redeemed humanity. He spoke in archaic English and explained his life in doctrinal statements rather than life experiences. There seemed to be deep seated fear of getting his explanations theologically wrong. It will be huge weakness in this guy’s life as he tries, as he wishes to with some passion, to reach out to others with the love of Christ. There is a denial of the incarnation and the witness of the four Gospels in his communication.
In these fears and many others I find many Christians living in deep seated oppression. A great many are driven by prioritising not being wrong rather than being right. It is like telling people what not to eat rather than enticing them with good healthy lovely food. It leads to an overwhelming fear of getting it wrong which paralyses the child of God with guilt and shame and therefore prevents them from the good decisions that will bring God’s Kingdom in their lives and in the society around them.
The Scriptures tell us that “perfect love casts out fear” and we should walk into the empowering reality of those words. Fear means rules and we end up like the Pharisees that Jesus came to defeat. At times we have become an image of the Jesus that those Pharisees wanted. As we read in Paul’s letter to the Galatians Christ came to bring freedom and that freedom makes rules oblique and fires a lifetime process where good pushes out the bad. Fear never creates or impacts. It never adventures or explores or develops or creates or imagines. Fear can never bring the Kingdom. It is too distracting and too disabling.
This might be what Jesus was on about when he told the parable of the talents. The fearful servant decided to play safe, take no risks and dig a hole to bury the talent given. When the Master returned he had done no wrong, not even threatened to damage or lose the talent. There it was safe and sound to give back to his Master. The Master fumed with anger at such a nervous, fearful approach to the talents and took the talent from him before casting him into hell! Another quirk in the story is that those who play it most safe and fearful are the same ones who talk most about hell!
So let us allow the grace and lavish love of God (as John calls it in his first epistle) to make us brave and adventurous multiplyers of everything that God has given us in Christ. Flee the fear and embrace the freedom; follow Jesus!