Spirit of Fear
I read an article today that discussed, from a politically conservative viewpoint, how pastors are afraid to address political issues from the pulpit. His point was that secular authorities seek to minimize the effect of the Church (i.e. the Gospel) on society. One way is to penalize churches who get too politically vocal for someone’s taste.
Another way is to minimize the respectability of Christian scholarship. Whether this is done subtly through comments during lectures to undergrads, or through the tenure and promotion process, or other more direct and/or vocal methods, folks opposed to the Gospel are typically more evangelical in their opposition than Christians are about the Good News.
And we the Christians tend to shrink back in fear. Myself included. We are pretty good at coming up with justifications for it, and many of them have some degree of validity, to be sure. But, for myself, there is fear present—sometimes greater, sometimes less, but present nonetheless.
We fear the loss of respect of our colleagues. We fear the loss of our career ladder or even job. We fear looking like a fool to the elite of the world, of which we have worked very hard to join. The bible has many things to say to us on this. I will share three.
“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!” I Corinthians 4:9-10
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:7-8
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7
I am not saying we seek the position of lightning rod and invite trouble. Christ Himself warned that we should be innocent as doves and wise as serpents. He means for us to live free to follow Him without fear—to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world, and His priests to the downtrodden, living and calling for righteousness, living in and extending grace. If others are offended and attack, so be it. We are not to seek confrontation, neither should we avoid it.
The Christian life seems to be moving forward in the grace and freedom of obedience, and what comes will come. Christ will carry us through, though He never promises us ease, peace or prosperity. He promises His presence, His love, His grace, His forgiveness, and reigning with Him when His kingdom is fully manifest. A ruler who rules from fear rules poorly and all suffer. If this life is our basic training in being co-heirs with Christ, we should think well on the manner of our attitude towards adversity and conflict, that we may not be found wanting in the return of our talents.