In this season it is good to keep a close eye on our emotions.
There are two that are especially prevalent, and seem to grow as political activity increases, and signs of the times seem to indicate, more than ever before, that we could be in the last days. Neither of these emotions should be found as a motivator for a follower of Jesus Christ and yet they are everywhere. I am speaking of the emotions of fear and anger.
I became aware of the presence of fear especially among Christians some years ago when I realized how strong the desire for safety was in the Christian subculture, and how it was the driving force behind much of what is now without a doubt a multi-billion-dollar industry providing signature goods and services to Christians who desire a safer alternative to what the world has to offer. As pioneers in what came to be known as “Christian” music, we had no idea how widespread the Christian label was to become.
At first, I was excited about how fast this was developing, but I quickly became aware of something sinister lurking underneath this fast-moving market. It was the need for safety, and underneath that, the dominating presence of fear. That’s bad news.
Today, the Internet is a feeding ground for fear. Conspiracy theories, rumors, false stories, and promises for protection roam cyberspace looking for fearful hearts to exploit. Some ask for money, others sell a safer alternative. Ministries and politicians regularly succumb to the knowledge that the quickest way to someone’s wallet is to make them afraid and then offer them something that will alleviate their fear. Think of how many appeal letters follow this pattern.
My encouragement to you is to be on guard for the fear syndrome. You’ll find it everywhere: in political ads, in sermons, in Christian radio and television – anywhere someone is trying to motivate people to do something. Fear makes one turn in towards the self, circle the wagons, and run away from the world that Christ sent us into. I can say without question that if fear is anywhere in a proposal or a motivation, the enterprise is outside the Spirit of God. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.
1 Peter 3: 14-15 says this: “‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” This seems to indicate that at any time there is a popular fear going around. This is certainly true today. The alternative to fear is the presence of Christ in your heart. Perfect love casts out all fear.
Let’s check and make sure the right thing is motivating us. Jesus wants us in the world, not running away from it. He knows it is dangerous, that’s why he prayed for our protection when he was here (John 17:15): “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”
With Jesus praying for our protection and the Holy Spirit in our hearts, what more do we need? Don’t give in to fear; give in to love. The world needs the gospel of welcome — grace turned outward. Fear and anger will cancel out that message faster than anything. Love will open up opportunities.
I hear what you are saying about the tendency for Christians to want safety and comfort. Recently, I have been telling folks, “We are commanded to be strong and courageous, not safe and comfortable!”
Who doesn’t want safety and comfort? But scripture calls us repeatedly to strength, courage, boldness – attributes that are almost always needed when our world and our circumstances are neither safe nor comfortable.
Yes, yes, yes. The apostles and disciples in Acts never prayed for safety. They prayed for courage.
What’s sad is when what’s safe for one group is unsafe for the others. To non-believers a Christian radio station might seek to get their family to accept some cult-like dogma, or change their political point of view and therefor is “unsafe” in their minds. They’ll even ask you for money! Yikes!
It saddens me to recall the times fear tactics were used by Christians to push the Gospel. “The very next step you take could be a long way up…or a long way down.” If we want the Gospel to make people afraid, then sadly we will get what we want. They will fear anyone who brings this horrible message which uses fear mongering to get them to convert.
We get what we give. If we fear the world, they will fear us. If we show we are not afraid of them, they will feel the same. Best of all, they will have no fear of our message.