Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Overcoming Fear With Love

We’re living in a land of fearful people. 

I’m reading such things since the election that say:
·      Blacks are afraid of the KKK becoming strong. 
·      Hispanics are afraid of deportation.
·      The LBGTQ community is afraid that they will lose their “equal” rights.
·      Cops are afraid of being shot.
·      Muslims are afraid of every kind of discrimination.

All of that fear is in the kingdom that does not belong to Christ.  Yet, from what I’ve seen the last months and especially the last week it is just as evident in evangelical churches of every color. 

Fear is crippling.  It shuts us down. Silences our witness. I’m preparing for Sunday’s message in Judges, and in chapter 6 the Israelites were so afraid of the Midianites that they “made hiding places for themselves in the mountains, caves and strongholds”.  And this in the very land God had given them and promised was theirs.  So, they were paralyzed as a people for 7 years because of fear.

We can’t pretend the fears around us aren’t real or that some of them aren’t legit.  Many of them (on both sides) are fed by this mess we call social media.  It’s like a frenzy sometimes, and it seems Christians are as prone to hand-wringing as anyone.  I confess that my personal fear in the election was that we would have to endure 4 more years of attacks on religious liberties like we’ve seen the past eight. And certainly (said my fear) we can’t allow that, because our ability to wave the banner of Christianity depends on our 1st amendment rights, right?

Then I read the Bible.  Especially the New Testament.  And I hear Jesus saying things about His Kingdom, like these words to Pilate.  "My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here."

And I read the Apostles Paul, Peter and John writing to Christians living in a worldly kingdom, the Roman Empire, where their religious liberties were disappearing under emperors who had it in for the Christians they saw as potential insurrectionists and revolutionaries.  

Paul wrote to the Roman church: For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, " Abba, Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. – Rom. 8:15-17

Peter wrote to the persecuted church: 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed,15but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. - 1 Pet. 3:14-17

John then wrote,  And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
17In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; for we are as He is in this world.
18There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because He first loved us.  - 1 Jn. 4:16-19

I could go on and on pointing out the passages that instruct us not to fear what the world might throw at us, and that we should expect those things, even suffer because of those things because we have citizenship in another kingdom.  There’s plenty of that in the Bible.

Our struggle (at least mine) is in living this dual citizenship we have.  On the one hand I know the Word and its promises and admonitions about living in fear.  How many times did Jesus say “Fear not”?  A bunch.  We know that in our heads.  But when we are constantly bombarded through media and conversations with stories and conjectures, "breaking news" and conspiracy theories those things can easily overcome what we know the Bible to say.

So, these suggestions:
1. Safeguard what you let into your mind that comes from “this world”.  I found myself hiding a lot of others Facebook posts yesterday because I knew their content would only either make me mad or focused on the wrong kingdom.  "Garbage in. Garbage out."

2. Use your influence and your words to love the fearful.  You don’t have to agree with the fears, and maybe you can’t relate to them at all.  But, as Christians we’ve got this promise that love casts out fear.  Maybe we just need to be less defensive, stop arguing and love like Jesus. That requires sacrificing my right to be right.

3. Spend more time in the Word than in the news and on social media.  It’s no wonder that we live in fear.  We’re feeding our minds and hearts with the wrong food.  If I didn’t know that I have this other citizenship in Christ’s kingdom, I’d be totally fearful right now.  And fear only causes us to lash out in defense.

4. Trust God.  That’s easy to say and is almost cliché.  But, if I truly am trusting God then I’m good with whomever resides in the White House or the governor’s mansion.  I may not agree with him/her/them, but I know God has my back and that of my family and my country…even if He allows us to suffer.  Are we truly any better or more special to God than Christ or the Christians under Nero’s thumb? 

5. Look for His Kingdom to come.  When Jesus said to include “Your kingdom come” in our prayers it was for a reason.  Praying for it won’t make it happen sooner.  My guess is that day of the Lord is already on God’s calendar.  But praying for it keeps it before my mind and it is our blessed hope.

My hope and prayer is that the coming days and years, should we have them, will bring about a renewal in the church as we become less worldly and more kingdom centered.  Our perspective has to change and become more than words.  And I know that if I’m sincere it has to start with me.