Skip to main content

The Many Faces of Fear


Samuel Wells writes,
"Fear isn't itself good or bad.  It's an emotion that identifies what we love.  The quickest way to discover what or whom someone loves is to find out that they are afraid of.  We fear because we don't want to lose what we love.  We fear because we don't want to lose what we love.  We fear intensely when we love intensely or when we think what or whom we love is in real danger.  So a world without fear wouldn't be a good thing, because it wouldn't just be a world without danger - it would be without love." ~Be not Afraid: Facing Fear with Faith, xv


Fear can be a crippling emotion that drives us to despair but it can also lead us to revere the things or persons we should rightly honor.  Fear is neither inherently good or evil in itself but points to the overarching foundation of our hearts.  Mary and Joseph are told in the Gospels to not fear because there is great news for them.  Isaiah reminds exiled Israel to not fear because God has redeemed them and that though they walk through the water and the fire, God is with them.  Yet, we find fear used in a positive sense in the first proverb.  Proverbs 1.7, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.."  How do we understand fear and the myriad ways it is used in the Bible?

1. Context - How is fear used in the specific passage we are looking it?  Is it in a story about God's reminding his people of his presence?  Or, does the biblical writer use it in a negative light concerning fear and call the people to trust the Lord amidst perilous circumstances.  Also, when the Bible speaks to the characters in the text not to fear, who is telling the people not to fear (an angel, the Lord, Jesus, etc.).

2. Consequential Action - What kind of action follows the admonition to not fear or the use of fear in a specific passage.  How does Jesus or God use fear in the Scripture to bear witness to their redemptive care for their people?  The action that follows out of the context surrounding fear in a biblical passage is foundational for how we are to act.

3.  Pastoral Sensitivity - Everyone fears someone or something.  Let's not quick to make fear into a sin that can't be shaken.  Freedom from crippling or paralyzing fear takes root when we identify the Christian life as a series of both habitual moral actions in both attitude and action alongside a healthy sense of weakness.  Weakness is key to the Christian life because by laying forth our fears, failures, hopes, and hurts, we come to the foot of the cross, finding life through death.  In doing this, we realize that our fellow brothers and sisters have walked down the road of fear, walk in fear, and will walk in fear too.  The goal isn't to have a stiff upper lip and to go through life with a stoic attitude, but to live honestly knowing that forgiveness is not something that just happened 2,000 years ago but takes place today.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
Misperceptions, misconnections, and missed observations are just some of the issues that Timothy Snyder raises in his book, Black Earth, concerning the Holocaust.  Snyder, no stranger to the frontlines of scholarship on the Holocaust, with his previous book Bloodlands, that concerns the land from Hitler to Stalin, takes a look at the Holocaust from new sources and new avenues of thought.  How did some nation-states survive relatively unscathed from Nazi persecution while others, notably Jewish populations, succumb to a wave of killings?  Also, what was the role of the Soviet Union in the war and how did Stalin effect changes in the Final Solution?  These questions are only two of the many that Snyder answers in his detailed account of the Holocaust.
One of the best chapters was entitled The Auschwitz Paradox.  Generally when the public thinks about the Holocaust, we think of Auschwitz first or at the top of our mental m…

the great spiritual migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren

Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.

Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love t…

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology, Edited by Mark S. Burrows

Bringing words to life on a page is hard work, and no work is harder than poetry.  Poets take the visceral, the mundane, and the disjointed and frayed things of life and put them on their head.  This new anthology of poetry put out by Paraclete Press and edited by Mark S. Burrows, takes the best poetry of today and brings together old and new poems from these gifted creators.  You find poems from Scott Cairs, SAID, Phyllis Tickle, and others.  The collection stems the span of 2005-2016 and includes both religious poems and themes, as well as themes covering a broad swath of topics.

One of the beauties of this collection is the array of poems that the anthology includes in its pages.  One poem in particular stuck with me as read through the collection.  Anna Kamienska is a wonderful Polish poet who interacts with the wider lens of faith while looking carefully at the world we live in.  She says in her poem named Gratitude, (44)

A tempest threw a rainbow in my face
so that I wanted to…