by Evi Rodemann
(Editor’s note: This is the 4th in a 9-part series on Finding Our Gospel Voice in a Changing Culture.)
“Do not be afraid!” Hundreds of Bible verses tell us to not be afraid, because often we are! It is one thing to be afraid and another to know how to deal with fear. It is no sin to experience fear as long as it does not stop us from living out the calling God has for each of our lives. Of course, this is easier said than done! But it is the only option we have if we are to have a gospel voice in our changing culture.
While we look at the hundreds of verses in scripture on fear and trusting God, the world around us often dictates our fears. Political, religious, economic, and sociological developments often sidetrack us from God´s reality. We need to make a decision daily to trust God in situations that scare us, deciding if we will listen to the voices of fear or to the voice of God.
Once in a while God challenges us to have the bird´s eye view and look at situations the way God does. Sometimes, he allows us to see a glimpse of His purpose with the world.
Fear, by definition, is an anxious feeling caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience. Fear of ‘the other’ is often mingled with fears of rejection or judgment. How can we deal with this so that we will not be run by our fears of the others?
I personally have found this idea to be helpful: “Stop waiting on other people to give you permission to do what God has already appointed you to do!”
But what does this mean? It means not waiting, but taking an active role! When we lose our security and identity in Christ and look instead at the circumstances around us, we become self-centered and fearful. The unknown scares us as human beings. We have the urge to be in control at any cost. But this is not how the Bible wants us to be. Fear of the other paralyses us, makes us stay in bed, hide in safe places, and makes us loose our saltiness.
Fear of others and fear of rejection are to some psychologists the main fears which stop us from moving forward. The world is looking for Christians who are willing to stand up for their faith, willing to raise their opinion, willing to walk upon new and creative grounds, willing to stand in the gap for others.
My friend and executive mentor Bobb Biehl uses this quote often: “Fear is always self-centered and self-preservation!” It is about me. Only about me. I think of myself being the center of the universe! To overcome this, we need others to challenge us to be more like Jesus, trusting together, and making the commitment to do whatever it takes to move past the fear. When I was 20 years old, I heard someone’s life motto and since then it has become mine: “Never say no because of fear!”
When we study the Bible in the Old and New Testament, we can easily conclude that God is eager to form a multiethnic/cultural covenant community. However, it seems Christians are not as eager to partner with God in this regard.
When we look at Jesus, his disciples, and the Apostle Paul, we find numerous encounters where fears were dealt with, where borders were crossed, where the unknown was stepped upon. Like engaging with lepers, walking on water, reaching out to Gentiles, and ministering to the lost, sick, unengaged, disliked, and filthy. Jesus and His early followers made the decision to overcome their fears, not to be controlled by them. In the gospel is the moral imperative that we must cross boundaries of all sorts.
One of the study assignments as part of my MA on Europe was to go out and interview people in my neighborhood, the ‘others’–the ones I might normally not encounter voluntarily. A study mate and I explored streets around a U.K. city, talked to people with migrant backgrounds, explored various religious institutions, and got a completely different sense of the people there. As we drank coffee with those different from us, fear and thoughts of intimidation left us and we were able to share about our Christian faith and committed to continue in the conversations.
What a joy it was to discover those who lived in my neighborhood, to ask them about their needs, and to see how they themselves try to make a difference. Fear was tackled in going out and explore in a non-threatening and serving attitude.
Never let fear control you in getting to know people from other backgrounds. You might miss THE opportunity!
Here’s a few tips on how to deal with the fear of the other:
- Make the effort to get to know them. Fear often comes because we have limited knowledge about others. Explore who they are, what they do.
- Start praying for them.
- Open your home and church, welcoming them without expecting anything back. Leave your comfort zone.
- Be in God´s community, where you can bear the burden together and reach out in community.
- Are you allowing scripture to help you deal with your fear?
- Is fear controlling you, or are you controlling the fear?
- Who are ‘the others’ around you who you could reach out to?
Evi Rodemann (@erodemann) is executive director of the European youth mission movement and congress called Mission-Net. She loves young Europeans and seeing them discover and use their God-given calling in this world gives her the greatest joy.