Finished with Fear (I Wish)

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I’m tendering my resignation. Well, that actually sounds like some pre-cooking method (i.e. marinating or poaching), but the point is I’m finished. Not that this will actually work, but a declaration is needed here, so this seems as good as any. No matter what scenario you picture, my point is: I’m done with fear.

It should start with me, of course, but I prefer to point out the flaws in other people first. So I started with my “friends” who posted anything fear-driven on Facebook recently (at least that I could see in the last 24 hours). Any person who recently posted one way or the other about the health care industry was zapped from our cyber-friendship (some of us can make it up over real-life friendship outings later). After all, nobody ever posts “Hey, I’d love to intelligently discuss the pros and cons, so check out this helpful chart I found.” It’s always venomous, the other side is always scheming their dastardly deeds to lure us in, etc. And, being done with fear, I certainly can’t have any of that.

I also altered my reading list. My own fear-mongering started early in college. I found people like Anne Lamott and Donald Miller, which should have led me into new, fresh ways of thinking about and embracing faith. Instead, in my immaturity I swung the pendulum completely to the opposite side and scoffed at all of my “small-minded” conservative friends who still gasped audibly at profanity. If you hadn’t read or weren’t willing to read such material, I labeled you as the enemy and was happy to go to war with those who are certainly wrong.

That reading list has only continued for the last decade and a half. I’m now 32 and pastoring my own church for the last five years and I still think the exact same way. My reading material concerns social issues, (usually) liberal politics, anti-war books and the like. And I all-too-often jump at the invitation to hit the ring–like a rookie pro wrestler waiting for his intro music and pyrotechnics (guess that’s not a good analogy for such a thinking circle as the Rabbit Room readership, but you get my point).

In the process, I “comment” on some online blog or post in a harsh tone I would never use in daily life. My computer brings a level of confidence that’s really nothing more than an obnoxious attitude that needs a quick dose of repentance. I hold on tighter to the issues than my brother and to my beliefs more than my sister. And in the process, I run contrary to the gospel.

I’m also done with fear in my religion. I’m done leading people into the Kingdom of God through a culture of fear: where would you go if you were to die tonight? Not that I’ve ever honestly said those words in my five years of teaching every week, but I’m done with a religion that encourages it. The kingdom deserves more than its only participants backing into it instead of running, participating only out a fear of the alternative. I won’t be guilty of painting it that way and robbing it of its beauty.

Each and every day I see fear robbing me of my joy and my community of its vitality. We’re afraid of the other side of the coin–of a different viewpoint than what we hold. We’re afraid that people won’t accept us or our beliefs, so we bully them into the Kingdom or we make ourselves martyrs for the cause in case we’re rejected (so I still get my reward). We’re afraid of living counter-culturally and defining a modern life of faith, and in the process we neuter the living witness of the gospel. Fear leads to death. And right now, it’s killing me.

Profile photo of Matt Conner

Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.


17 Comments

  1. mike

    Where can I sign up Matt?

    I think that there may be a certain amount of comfort in fear. To live fear-less would require too much from me. I need to be afraid of the left or right or maybe left and right. I need to be dead center of it all less I be mistaken for one or the other.

    GREAT PARAGRAPH
    “I’m also done with fear in my religion. I’m done leading people into the Kingdom of God through a culture of fear: where would you go if you were to die tonight? Not that I’ve ever honestly said those words in my five years of teaching every week, but I’m done with a religion that encourages it. The kingdom deserves more than its only participants backing into it instead of running, participating only out a fear of the alternative. I won’t be guilty of painting it that way and robbing it of its beauty.”

    I truly am finished with this fear. You don’t know how much trouble I get in when I say that I’m no longer afraid of God. If He loves me, I mean really loves me, then anything that He does to me is really for me. To teach others to be afraid of God is simply ludicrous in my current way of thinking.

    If we ask another stranger, “If you die, where will you go,” will it increase what Jesus done for us by a little bit more? (line from a song I recently wrote)

    Great Post Matt, Thanks

  2. Nathanael

    Great post, brother.
    These sentences are especially poignant to me: “I hold on tighter to the issues than my brother and to my beliefs more than my sister. And in the process, I run contrary to the gospel.”

  3. Chris Slaten

    My wife and I were talking just the other night about how we can’t think of any place in the gospels where Jesus uses that rhetorical tactic of “Do you know where you are going when you die?” I know that he talks about eternal punishment, i.e. the story of Lazurus and the rich man, but he is not talking about it for the same reasons that modern evangelicals do. I wonder why that has become such a focus of evangelism if Jesus never/rarely tried to draw people in that way. Maybe I am forgeting a passage.

    Thanks for the post. Agreed.

  4. Profile photo of Eric Peters

    Eric Peters

    @ericpeters

    Matt, really appreciate this post. I’ve started doing the same with my Facebook friends (via how many degrees of separation, I do not know). Zap. The last thing I need / want in my life at the tender age of thirty-almost-seven is MORE crud to be afraid of. Fear ruins and makes us slaves. Many thanks for your honesty and for writing & posting these sentiments.

  5. KeithO

    A recent church crisis got me thinking (and now writing) a lot about differences of opinion and how threatened we are by them. Fear in the religion can be our response to people disagreeing with us, and to our own insecurity about screwing up the Great Commission. As if that was even possible; as if salvation was really the work of our own hands.

  6. Micah

    Luke 12:13-21 is the parable of the rich fool who stored up his treasure and decided to eat drink and be merry. But God said to him, “You Fool! This very night your soul will be required of you.”

    Now, I really think that Jesus told that story with the intention of causing those who listened to say to themselves, “wow, what if I did die tonight, where is my treasure stored up?”

    I think, at least in its purest form, the question of “do you know what would happen to you if you died tonight?” isn’t about causing fear. Its about showing that in Christ we have no fear of death. Its about revealing an existing fear and showing that it is not needed. Have some distorted that? Undoubtedly.

    Anyways, great post Matt, you said a lot of great things, and I always hate to be that guy you picks at one specific thing when everything else was marvelous.

  7. Drew

    Thanks for giving voice to something I was feeling, yet couldn’t bring myself to act on. Dear Facebook friends: Life’s too short for me to have to deal with all of your agitprop. This is goodbye! 🙂

  8. Tony Heringer

    Matt – I love this line: “I hold on tighter to the issues than my brother and to my beliefs more than my sister. And in the process, I run contrary to the gospel.” I had a friend share with me the other day this gem: “Our theology shoudl be a gift not a club.” Can I get an amen?

    No need to worry about mentioning “wrasslin'”. I’ve always considered it a poor man’s Shakespeare. I’m sure old Willy is welcome here so why not WWE or F or whatever they call it now. 🙂

    “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” Solomon teaches us in Proverbs 1 and the good Lord does not leave us there for His perfect love drives out all fear (1 John 4:18). The love of Christ drives out fear. Ron has a continuing series on this topic on Facebook. But I digress…

    We who follow Jesus are given a mission of reconciliation. We are His ambassadors. As such we have ample opportunity in this contentious culture to be peace makers (Matt 5:9) and peace seekers (Romans 12:18).

    Thanks for the work you are doing at The Mercy House http://www.themercyhouse.com/leadership You labor in a job that is not appreciated enough. Continue to shepherd your flock well. I prayed for you and some of the other congregations represented here today (Church of The Redeemer http://www.redeemernashville.net/ and Oak Hills http://www.oakhillspca.com/about-us/ ) I’d encourage the rest of the Rabbit Heads to do the same.

  9. LauraP

    “I labeled you as the enemy and was happy to go to war with those who are certainly wrong…. We’re afraid of the other side of the coin–of a different viewpoint than what we hold…..Each and every day I see fear robbing me of my joy and my community of its vitality….The kingdom deserves more.”

    I would very much like to be your Facebook friend.

  10. E

    Spooky post.

    That was probably funnier inside my head than written here… but your words,

    “We’re afraid that people won’t accept us or our beliefs, so we bully them into the Kingdom or we make ourselves martyrs for the cause in case we’re rejected (so I still get my reward). We’re afraid of living counter-culturally and defining a modern life of faith, and in the process we neuter the living witness of the gospel.”

    … really hit me. I don’t do fear. At least not in terms of worrying about my physical safety, or my job or whatever. But I am reticent with my friends who don’t seem to know God or who are close but not quite there and why? For fear of being seen as dogmatic or bullying.

    I do believe there is a way to live vibrantly, lovingly, without compromise… but I can think of specific situations where I’ll be quiet instead. That may be a more powerful indication about what I really believe than I’m comfortable. with.

  11. Peter B

    Hear hear! Down with fear!

    Seriously, fear is the love-killer in my life (I could probably eliminate those last three words), though by God’s grace it’s losing ground rather than gaining.

    “…we have ample opportunity in this contentious culture to be peacemakers…”

    Seriously! Talk about light shining brighter in the darkness… this is a huge gaping hole that the love of Christ can fill, and why is it so hard to pick up a shovel?

  12. J.D.

    Matt, isn’t that the point of all the noise and fear and hatred–to get conscientious people “off the bus”? I think that you’re simpling falling for the very thing these tactics are designed to do. The very reason for the fear is a lack of compassion in our society, a lack of moral direction for our nation.

    I have a couple of suggestions that don’t involve ignoring even the most heated invective. I admit that I “partake” sometimes, but only when I can get a good point in.

    1) I sabbath from politics every week. I need one day where God is in his proper place, President Obama, SC Rep. Joe Wilson, and the TV blowhards are in theirs. When I come back from Sabbath, I have perspective, I have love, I’m better able to face challenges to my intelligence–and my ‘enlightened’ moral sense.

    2) I ignore the volume. People who don’t have a strong grip of the facts tend to shout, or USE ALL CAPS!!!! online. These are humans–they are “friends” that I’m talking to. No well-stated political point is worth the loss of a single friend, and I try to remember this.

    3) Remember this, fear is the absence of faith. It’s a sign that more is not-quite-right than elements of a given bill. The loudest voices on either side are either demonstrating an enormous lack of faith in the President (the attacks are personal, and many have little to do with facts about proposed bills) or a lack of faith in the health care system as it works today. As a pastor, it’s not your job to build people’s faith in government–or tear it down–but you can minister to the needs behind the fears. If you’re interested, I’ve written about this solution at length on this blog post, http://jdittes.blogspot.com/2009/09/nation-tested-thoughts-on-numbers-14_12.html, comparing our current situation with that found in Numbers 14.

  13. Peter B

    JD: love what you’re saying in 1 and 2. We could all do — myself included — with a healthier view of God’s sovereignty and our own duty to love our neighbor.

    Not sure I agree with your comparison to Numbers 14, but you’re spot on concerning what the church should be trying to do with our ministry.

    Matt: I thought you’d like to know that I have a very civil and fact-based discussion thread on Facebook right now, and it’s all about your favorite topic 🙂 I guess I won’t need to zap anybody today. Fight the good fight, my brother.

  14. Tony Heringer

    “Remember this, fear is the absence of faith.” This reminded me of one of the greatest lines I’ve ever heard. Matt Ballard, one of our teaching pastors, in a message topic I can’t recall, gave us this gem: “Security is not the absence of danger. Security is the presence of God.”

    Can I get an amen on this fine Sunday morning?

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