Seems appropriate for the day before Halloween to talk about the Fear.
The main reason why Christians don’t act in faith?
Why we won’t share Jesus with our neighbors and coworkers? Why we won’t pray for people to be healed? Why we won’t ask God for miracles? Why we won’t prophesy, even though we’re sure God is talking to us right this instant? Why we don’t start ministries, don’t offer help, don’t encourage, don’t anything?
You’ve likely met Christians who’re the most friendly, outgoing, outspoken, extroverted people you’ve ever seen. Got no trouble with public speaking. No trouble sharing their opinions—even when you’d rather they didn’t. No trouble talking about their favorite movies, teams, products, politics. Maybe a little initial stage fright, but they shake it off quickly.
Then, when it comes to acting in faith, these very same Christians seize right up, and never snap out of it. It’s like someone cut the power. Someone crimped the hose. The meds wore off. Pick your favorite simile.
As outgoing as they might be, they immediately imagine the worst-case scenario. “If I act, they’ll…” followed by the most awful thing we can picture. Not, as people usually do, with a shake of the head and a “No thank you; not interested.” (Nor, as what usually happens in a country where four out of five of us consider ourselves Christian, “Um… okay.”) No no. It’s the worst-case scenario. The worst they can possibly come up with.
Usually it sounds like this. Say we’ve asked a man whether we can share Jesus with him. He immediately reacts with a demoniac’s strength, with the rage of a thousand angry nerds who were just told Jar Jar Binks is a major character in the next Star Wars movie, and shouts, “How dare you tell me about Jesus. How dare you talk about religion. I hate Christians. You’ve made an enemy for life!” Out of nowhere he procures a medieval mace, and proceeds to beat us like that one devil-possessed guy beat the sons of Skeva. Out of nowhere a lynch mob appears, shouting for our blood, and once they’re done with us, they run amok, burning down all the churches, hanging Christians from every lamppost.
Maybe you haven’t articulated the worst-case scenario that way. Or at all. But in your deepest, darkest parts, you kinda worry something like that could happen. At the very least, no one will like you anymore, and think of you as the office bible-thumper, or the holier-than-thou legalist, or the hipster Christian who tries to redirect every conversation into a religious one. The Jesus freak. Whatever threatens to make us friendless and alone.
That’s the Fear. It’s the assumption that if we step out in faith, things’ll be awful. So we don’t.
It’s not a rational fear.
If the Fear sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.
Most fears aren’t rational, but the Fear is especially irrational. It’s not based on reality in the slightest. It’s not meant to be. It serves only one purpose: It gets us to stop. Rational fear makes us stop and think a little before moving forward. Irrational fear makes us flinch like someone poked a spear at us. The Fear makes us panic—not think at all, ’cause if we did, we’d realize how foolish it was. But the Fear just triggers our shut-down instinct, where usually the smartest thing to do is stay out of it… so we stay out of it. Or flee.
The purpose of the Fear is to keep Christians from acting in faith. Period.
Wait, the Fear has a purpose? Well, yeah: The Fear doesn’t come from us. If it did, it’d be easy to overcome with a little training. Nor does it come from God, who doesn’t use fear to motivate us. God uses power, love, and self-control. The Fear comes from the devil.
By “devil” I don’t necessarily mean Satan. Satan isn’t everywhere at once, y’know. Any devil will do. When Christians threaten to unleash some of that Holy Spirit power on a situation, whatever devil has a vested interest in nothing of the sort happening, tries to inflict a little of that Fear on us. And since most Christians have taken very little control over our emotions (heck, some of us think it’s spiritual to be overly emotional) we’re easy. Devils take advantage: Scare us a little, and we back up. Scare us a lot, and we flee.
Especially when we don’t really love our neighbors all that much. We were kinda looking for an excuse to do nothing. Well, the Fear is that excuse. The devils count on our lack of compassion to help them along.
And you know how we humans like to justify our behavior, good or bad: “I’m not gonna do this right now because… um… I don’t feel led.” Or “I don’t feel the Spirit moving me to do this right now.” Or the ever-popular “I feel a check in my spirit.” No you don’t. You wouldn’t know spiritual discernment from heartburn. You felt the Fear, and you choose to interpret it as God warning you away from loving your neighbor. Since when is that what he does?
Like I said, it’s irrational. And it gets us to be irrational too. We forget all about God’s character. We forget this ain’t God. He wants us to take up that shield of faith, ’cause the fiery darts of Fear are coming right at us.
Shove the Fear aside.
So now that you know what the Fear is, you can fight it. God’s perfect love pushes the Fear aside.
We need to stop imagining those worst-case scenarios, and recognize how stupid they are. What actually does happen? Hang out with Christians who minister in those ways—who prophesy, who pray for healing, who help the needy—and watch what actually does happen. You’ll see way more gratitude than outrage.
Yeah, I’ve seen people get angry. It’s rare. It’s because I foolishly wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings: They were already angry, and sharing Jesus just redirected their anger towards him. Of course, they’re not angry at Jesus so much as they are with Christians, ’cause some of us have been awful to them. I remind them I’m not trying to share Christianity, but Jesus, whom they know is a good guy. Usually that calms them down a bit. None of them have tried taking a nightstick to me. Not saying it could never happen; just that what does happen is never the worst-case scenario I spelled out earlier.
More often those who don’t want Jesus are just apathetic. They figure they’re fine as-is, or Christian enough. They’re more dismissive than angry. They’ll get angry, if we push them—and we shouldn’t; that’s proselytism, not evangelism. But that’s another discussion.
In countries where we can be killed for being Christian, the Fear makes more sense. In the United States, and other countries where the culture is used to multiple religions, or has a long tradition of Christianity, the Fear makes no sense. Realize what it is, then shove it aside. Trust God. Share Jesus.