Church, can we name our fears?
I’ve been afraid of a lot of things these past two years. I’ve always been a “grab life by the horns” kind of girl, but these last couple years have been different for me.
Quitting my secure job, watching people close to me battle depression, seeing the rise of white nationalism in various countries, and staring down the barrel of climate change . . . all these things have forced me to wrestle with my fears. It’s hard, and I’d rather not do it.
I see the Church wrestling with fears too. The problem is that these fears often go unnamed. We like to think of ourselves as 100 percent rational, but that’s just not realistic. We’re human. So let’s just say it: we’re afraid of losing cultural power. We’re afraid of shrinking congregations and shrinking influence. I see this anxiety crop up amidst the hubbub around Canada Summer Jobs and Trinity Western’s community covenant. Our focus can so easily drift from God to self-preservation.
And then comes God’s voice: don’t be afraid. (How many times did an angel say that in the Bible?) From stories of manna in the desert to Jesus’ invitation to Peter to get out of the boat and chance the waves, there is a call to dependence throughout the biblical text that does not compute with my desire for control and security.
But God! The waves!
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God . . .” (1 John 4:7).
Don’t you see we’re drowning?
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a).
Maybe God warns us against fear not simply for ourselves but because fear short-circuits the love of God and others to which we are called. Fear can trap us into seeking things that God never asked us to seek, like our own security or the survival of a denomination. But love short-circuits fear!
God’s all-sufficient love
I see this choice between fear and love playing itself out in today’s debate about refugee claimants who are crossing our southern border, often outside of regular points of entry. You can hear the undercurrents of fear in the debate: will they threaten our prosperity? Will they change our laws? Will they overwhelm our capacity?
I think that these are not terribly well-informed fears, but they are fears nonetheless, and they’re shaping Christians responses to those who are showing up at the doorstep of “our” country.
There is another choice. What would it look like to lean fully into the all-sufficient love of God and step out in love?
I’ve seen some glimpses of people making that choice, and it’s got me excited.
Friends of mine recently welcomed refugee claimants into their home. The refugees needed a roof over their heads for a month until their apartment was ready, and my friends had a full mother-in-law suite in their basement. At first, the questions these generous and courageous folks asked me (the person arranging for the placement) were the questions you might expect: questions about locks on doors, about guests of different religions from their own. But eventually their refugee guests became the answer to prayers for connections with people who were different from them. Their guests became people they laughed with over cups of tea. Eventually, their refugee guests came to call them their “Canadian Dad and Mom.”
Friends, that is some Gospel beauty right there. There is so much freedom waiting for us outside of the boat. After all, Jesus is there.
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