Letting Go of Fear and Holding on to Love

The Other 6
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The foundation of our fears is love and the desire to protect that which we love.

I am afraid of snakes. This is no secret to folks who know me.

I am afraid of many other things as well. Many of the things I fear are less tangible. I fear failure. I fear being left out. I fear letting people down. Such fears are, I imagine, normal for many of us.

Underneath fear is almost always the love of something good, and there is anxiety surrounding protection of that good. I fear snakes—irrationally, I’ll admit—because I love my health and well-being and do not want to lose them to a snake. I am afraid of letting people down at least in part because I want others to be happy. I am afraid of being left out because I know we were created for community.

Our fears and the manner in which they drive our behavior too often go unspoken. We react out of our fear without naming the good that we love and are striving to protect. In many cases, this is at the core of conflict in our churches. We fear that our view of Scripture, our understanding of who God is, even the manner in which we experience and embody our own faith are under attack from those with whom we disagree. Worship becomes a war because we are afraid our own experience of God is somehow less valid than that of somebody else. Theological disagreements become points of division because we are afraid our church and our denomination are losing respect for Scripture as the Word of God.

In the Banner article “Renewal,” Clay Libolt suggests, “What [our denomination needs] is clarity about who we are and what we proclaim.” My guess, however, is that we are afraid to do this work. We are afraid to seek clarity about who we are and what we proclaim because we are afraid it will expose the divisions that underlie our denomination. We are afraid that our denomination will undergo yet another surge of exiting congregants and churches. We fear that clarity will come at the expense of theological rigor and respect for the tradition of our denomination.

The foundation of these fears is love and the desire to protect that which we love. A deep love for our denomination. Deep love for the next generation. Deep love for our traditions and the contribution that our church has made to the broad stream of the Christian faith.

When we react less out of fear and instead articulate what it is that we love, we find ourselves able to have healthy dialogue, to encourage one another, and to be bonded together by our shared experience of God’s grace and by what we have in common with one another. This does not result in a wishy-washy, watered-down sense of identity. Rather, when we move from fear to love we find ourselves empowered by the Holy Spirit to live in dynamic unity with one another, united by grace and compelled to bear witness to the world of the God who breaks down our divisions and the One who “reconcile[s] to himself all things . . . by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20).

I commonly end our worship services with a benediction I learned from Neal Plantinga. It promises that God will go before us to guide us, beside us to befriend us, beneath us to support us, and behind us to protect us. It ends with two simple sentences: “Do not fear; God is with us. Do not be afraid.”

This is God’s promise to us still, God’s promise to us today and always.

God is with us. Do not be afraid.

About the Author

Kory Plockmeyer is the pastor of Covenant CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa.

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Comments

Thanks for the helpful reminder of the often repeated command in scripture, "Do not be afraid". We need to hear it over and over again. Our fear reveals a lack of faith in our God. Sometimes God calls us to give up things we love for a greater good. Do we trust him enough to let go? Do we trust that he is working in and through others, those we disagree with, just as he is working in an through us? Do we believe that He can hold us together in spite of our deep differences? Can He bring us through painful conflict to a place of deeper communion? Are we willing to follow him even through the dark valley of death because we believe his goodness and love are leading us to resurrection? It's not easy. It seems easier to place our trust in things other than God; our denomination, our programs, our processes, our own expertise, gifts, and skills. These are good things, gifts from above. But we are called to love God more than these. Can we place our trust in God alone, who works in mysterious ways, who surprises us with what we don't expect, who leads us in paths of suffering as well as joy? Can we have faith to know that it's not up to us? What is possible is only possible with God; our work is to follow him, in his power and grace, overcoming fear with faith.

There lie the problems, Bonnie. When we are assured that we need not fear because God is with us, what do we take that to mean? That we cannot possibly lose members and go through difficult times as a denomination or a congregation? Or, that difficult discussions in our denomination will be worked for the good of those who love God? What if keeping us together “in spite of our deep differences” is not as glorifying to him as changing our hearts? Do we trust him to lead us there?

Kory’s right: what we fear reveals what we love. If we love mother or father or children (or denomination or congregation or theology or politics) more than Christ himself, then we are not worthy to follow him. God help our unbelief if he chooses to lead where we are not comfortable following.

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