19 August 2021

The Fear.

You likely know the main reason Christians don’t act in faith.

It’s why we won’t share Jesus with our neighbors and coworkers. Why we don’t pray for people to be cured of illnesses, freed from addictions, or rescued from troubles. Why we never even think to ask God for miracles. Why we won’t prophesy, even though we’re sure God is speaking to us right this instant. Why we won’t start ministries, won’t offer help, won’t encourage, won’t anything.

It’s the Fear.

I capitalize it because it’s not just any ol’ fear, like overcaution in case anything goes wrong, or concerns we might be doing too much, or hard experiences which inform our hesitancy. It’s the Fear. I’ll explain.

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 when they’re in front of a crowd, but they shake it off quickly. But when it comes to talking about Jesus or acting in faith, these very same Christians suddenly seize up and never snap out of it. It’s like someone flipped a switch. Someone cut the power. Someone crimped the hose. The meds wore off. Pick your favorite simile.

Because their minds immediately went to the darkest possible scenario: “If I act, they’ll…” followed by the most awful thing we can picture. Or can’t picture; they won’t even allow their minds to go there; it’ll be that bad.

In real life? Rarely happens that way. Rarely. In the United States, four out of five of us consider ourselves Christian, and even if these self-described Christians don’t believe in miracles, they’re not gonna say no to prayer. Not gonna dismiss Jesus outright. Might hesitantly respond, “Um… okay.” Even hardcore antichrists will just smile and say “No thank you.” We’ve gotta find someone with serious anger issues before we’d ever encounter a worst-case scenario.

But that’s who these Christians immediately picture. Usually it sounds like this: Say we ask 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 gonna star in the next Star Wars movie—and shouts, “How dare you tell me about Jesus. How dare you talk religion. I hate Christians. You’ve made an enemy for life!” Out of nowhere a medieval mace appears, and he beats us like that one devil-possessed guy beat the clothes off the sons of Sceva. Ac 19.11-20 Out of nowhere a lynch mob swarms us, screaming for our blood, and once they’re done with us, they run amok, burning down all the churches, hanging Christians from every lamppost.

Maybe your worst-case scenario doesn’t look this way at all. But in many a Christian’s deepest, darkest parts, we kinda worry something just as bad could happen. At the very least no one will like us anymore. They’ll think we’re the office bible-thumper. Or the holier-than-thou legalist. Or the insufferable 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 when we presume the instant we step out in faith, we’ll get overwhelming backlash, and things’ll be awful.

So we just don’t.

It’s not a rational fear.

If the Fear sounds ridiculous, it’s because it’s totally ridiculous.

Most fears aren’t rational: There’s no good reason to be afraid! Rational fears are based on experience, but we have no experience, and even though people assure us, “It’s not gonna hurt,” or “It’s gonna taste delicious,” or “You’re gonna love it”—even if these are spouses or parents or best friends or any of the people we trust most in life—we just won’t believe them at first. “But it’ll hurt me,” or “But I’ll think it tastes terrible,” or “But I’m not gonna love it.” And maybe that’ll be true—but we won’t risk the wonderful chance it’s not.

Much like this, the Fear is especially irrational. It’s not based on reality in the slightest. And doesn’t have to be. It serves only one purpose: It gets Christians to stop.

There are such things as rational fears. We have had experiences, we do know we might get hurt, there are good reasons to be careful. Rational fear makes us stop and think a little before moving forward. But irrational fear makes us flinch like someone jabbed a spear at us. The Fear triggers our instinct to panic—to not think at all, and flee or shut down. ’Cause if we did think, we’d realize how foolish our fears are. But the Fear doesn’t let us get to that point. We freak out, or run.

The purpose of the Fear is to keep Christians from acting in faith. Period.

Wait, the Fear has a purpose? Well duh.

Because the Fear isn’t an instinct, and certainly not a learned behavior. The Fear doesn’t come from us. If it did, it’d be simple to overcome it 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’s not everywhere at once, y’know. Any devil will do. Whenever Christians threaten to unleash some of that Holy Spirit power upon a situation, any devil with a vested interest in nothing of the sort happening, tries to trigger the Fear. And since most Christians have taken very little control over our emotions (heck, some of us think it’s spiritual to get overly emotional) we’re easy. Devils take advantage: Scare us a little, and we back up. Scare us a lot, and we run away.

It’s much easier when we don’t really love our neighbors all that much. We were kinda looking for some excuse to do nothing. Well, the Fear is that excuse. The devils count on our lack of compassion to help them hinder us.

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 does God not want you to love your neighbor? He commanded it. Lk 12.31 And now he’s uncommanding it?

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. Ep 6.16

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. 1Jn 4.18 We need to embrace that love. Love must be so much of a priority to us, the Fear becomes irrelevant, and we consider it just as stupid as it actually is.

We need to stop imagining worst-case scenarios, and recognize how foolish they are. What actually does happen? I recommend you watch some Christians who minister in these ways. Watch ’em interact with pagans. Watch ’em prophesy, pray for healing, and help the needy. And watch what actually does happen. You’ll see way more gratitude than outrage.

Yeah, I’ve seen people get angry at the gospel. It’s so rare. And it’s because they were already angry, and sharing Jesus gave them the excuse to redirect their anger towards him. They were pissed at the world, and they decided, “Y’know what?—if God’s in charge of the universe, why didn’t he intervene and make things the way I want?” and rage at him for a bit. Or they’re angry at Christians ’cause we did something evil, like not love them, and here’s their chance to lash out at some Christians, and maybe make us angry by lashing out at Jesus.

It’s happened to me a few times out of thousands, and I’ve found they’re really easy to calm down. I remind them I’m not trying to share Christianity, but Jesus—and they know Jesus is a good guy. And yeah, they’re willing to admit Jesus is a good guy; they know that much about him. And I’m just as willing to admit we Christians suck. I suck sometimes. I’m working on it.

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. No maces, no lynchings, no beatings. Nothing at all like we see in countries where Christians do get murdered for being Christian.

The other thousands of times, those who don’t want Jesus are simply apathetic: They figure they’re fine as-is. They’re Christian enough. They’re more dismissive of the “over-eager” evangelist, than angry. They’ll get angry if we push them—and we shouldn’t; that’s proselytism, not evangelism, and don’t do that.

In countries where we can get killed for being Christian, it’s a rational fear to be hesitant and careful—and you realize Christian missionaries go to these countries just the same, because God’s love working in them has pushed aside any fears they might have. 1Jn 4.18 But in countries like the United States where there’s a long tradition of favoritism towards Christianity, the Fear makes no sense. At all.

So realize what it is. Then shove it aside. Trust God. Share Jesus.