Friday, August 11, 2006

Fearful Faith?

We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us. So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first.
1 John 4:18-19 The Living Bible

I wonder how much of our belief systems are actually built on fear masquerading under the guise of "faith". It seems to me that much of our actions within the Church are motivated not by a loving response to the Father's love, but instead as a result of fear.

I know that I have beat this drum before, but it seems that there is an innate problem with the way in which we "do" church. One of the popular ideas in Christendom right now is that of the pastor/church as "covering". The idea goes that if a believer in Jesus is to be kept "safe" from the devil, he/she must be submitted to a pastor or church. To come out from under this "covering" is to make oneself vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. So out of fear, Christians run to churches, submitting to pastors, because to do otherwise seems to be a dangerous proposition. I have even heard of people staying in churches and under pastors that they felt were totally wrong, simply because they thought that as long as they submitted, they were "safe". Ughh. Where did this idea come from? Well, I think that there have been many contributing factors, but I think that one of the biggest is an insecure/fearful pastor, and insecure/fearful believers. Who is the Head that we should submit to, a human pastor, or the Head of the Body of Christ, Jesus? Who is our covering and protection, a human shepherd or hierarchy, or is it Jesus?

Lately, another thing that has struck me as a fearful, knee-jerk reaction is the response that has been given to Christians that are exploring "unorthodox" streams within the faith. Many times when believers begin to actually sit down and assess their faith, asking questions about long-held beliefs, they are scolded and "put in their place" by Christian watch-dog groups and people who fly the banner of "orthodoxy". What is orthodoxy? Well, some would say that it is "right" belief. I, along with others, personally wonder if it's not just another word for "long-held, majority-ruled belief". It seems that Christians many times are just not honest. I believe that many of us have questions about what we are told is "the truth", but are afraid to ask them. We are afraid to ask because of a false view of God that says that to question is to stand in danger of judgement, and because of the reaction we fear from our fellow believers. Are we so scared of God that we are afraid to ask questions? Do we think of God as so insecure that He would zapp us simply for thinking outside of the box? If something can't hold up to scrutiny, shouldn't we let it go? After all, isn't all truth God's truth? Jesus made an interesting statement that I believe is apporpriate:
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." John 9:40-41 NIV

The problem is not having an imperfect theology. Instead, it's an unwillingness to confess that you do. After all, didn't Paul say that now we "see through a glass darkly"?

I believe our methods of evangelism many times suffer from a motivation of fear. First of all, believers in Jesus fear God's displeasure and anger if they don't "witness" to people. Secondly, fear is used by these same believers as a tool to "win souls" into the Kingdom. Romans 2:4 says that it is the "goodness of God" that leads us to repentance. Many believe that the most effective tool in an evangelists arsenal is fiery evangelism that warns of the flames of hell. I beg to differ. According to the opening Scripture, fear and love cannot coexist. It is impossible to experience God's love for you when you are afraid of Him. In the same way that we avoid people when we know that they are angry with us, most people are not drawn to God when they are afraid of Him. If perfect love casts out fear, then experiencing God's love means that we see Him not as an angry judge, but instead, as a loving Father. According to the Bible, the message that we preach is not a message of doom and gloom, but instead of reconciliation. God is not mad at us, He loves us!
God...reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV

If we are to have faith in God, we must first lose our fear of Him. I am not talking here about a loss of respect for God, but intead a lack of fear in God. I respect my earthly father, but I do not fear him. The reason that I do not fear him is because I know that he loves me. Therefore, I know that his intentions for me are good, and that he would never do anything to hurt me. If only we believed as much about our heavenly Father.
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:11 NKJV

May we move beyond a fear-based faith, and into the freedom of the children of God! What do you think?


Mom & Dad said...

I agree wholeheartedly with this. You cannot scare people into the kingdom of God. You can only win them with love. And love will cause us to help those "babies in Christ" to grow also. We can't accomplish anything lasting with fear, but perfect love casts out fear.
Love you,

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heather said...

I popped over here from Steve's blog and enjoyed this post ... well said!!


Raborn Johnson said...

Mom & Dad,
True that!!! :) I love you guys!

So nice of you to stop by! Glad you enjoyed the post! Your comments are welcome anytime!

Gordon Cloud said...

This is a good thought, Raborn. I was actually preaching on the contrast of fear and love myself the other day.

If we are serving God out of fear, we will continually be worried and asking, "Am I doing enough?"

If we are serving God out of love, we will be at peace and will be asking, "What can I do now?"

Raborn Johnson said...

Great contrasting statement Gordon! Fear and love mix about as well as oil and water! The thing that I keep hearing the Lord say to me is "Do you trust Me?". I am hearing this lately in every area of my life. Religion seems to be ear-marked by a life of fear, whereas a relationship with Jesus seems to be characterized by a continual experience of unconditional love! Thanks for commenting Gordon!