Paralyzing fear takes away our power to fight the enemy. We become reactionary and prone toward survival-level decisions. Fear makes for terrible career choices. What spiritual work do you need to do in order to admit to and deal with the irrational and self-limiting fears in your life? Are you resolved to do that healing work? Resolved does not mean “only if it gets out of control” or ‘until something better comes along.” Resolved means surrendered, submitted, committed, sacrificially obedient. Being resolved to devote myself wholly to God means going after wholeness in my life, no matter the cost. <!–split–>
Too much of our conversation in The United Methodist Church is driven by fear. For decades, fear has kept us from talking lovingly and honestly about our differences. Fear is keeping congregations from frank discussions about our current crisis. Fear has kept us in a defensive crouch. Fear has kept us from acknowledging the depth of our divide. We have wanted to characterize it as a simple paper cut when it is in fact a gaping wound breeding infection. By minimizing the differences, we may stifle a crisis that is actually our opportunity – if we’re bold enough to accept change as a good thing – to give clearly unique theological positions a chance to live with more integrity and to prove themselves by their fruit.
I hear echoes of angels in this moment before us, encouraging “Be not afraid.” Meanwhile, we shrink back, for fear of what we might lose if we act boldly.
Fear is the great enemy of wholeheartedness.
Two years after the Israelites were delivered from their five hundred years of oppressive slavery in Egypt, they found themselves standing on the brink of the land God promised them. To get to this place, they had seen waters part and enemies drown. Yahweh was intimately involved with their lives. They knew him. They followed him. And just two short years after packing up and moving out of bondage, there they stood on the brink of God’s best. Yes, there were vicious armies and untamed wilds on the other side of that border, but they had the smoke and fire of God blazing their trail.
Then it happened. Human nature kicked in.
They became more cautious than optimistic. There at the edge of God’s plan, they sent a dozen spies into that question mark of a promise to check things out. Then returning spies slinked back with a warning: “Don’t do it! It is great real estate, but the people are giants. We will all die if we go over there.” The majority report was full of fear and trepidation.
The other two spies – young men named Joshua and Caleb – looked on that land and saw a future with hope. For them, the land was more possibility than problems. “I think we should do this,” they challenged. “This is God’s land and God’s fight. Let God defend us!”