The Safety of Fear
The tragedy of modern faith is that we no longer are capable of being terrified. We aren’t afraid of God, we aren’t afraid of Jesus, we aren’t afraid of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we have ended up with a need-centered gospel that attracts thousands…but transforms no one.
What happened to the bone-chilling, earth-shattering, gut-wrenching, knee-knocking, heart-stopping, life-changing fear that left us speechless, paralyzed, and helpless? What happened to those moments when you and I would open our Bibles and our hands started shaking because we were afraid of the Truth we might find there? Barclay tells us that the word used in the Bible for “Truth” has three meanings—a word used to describe a wrestler grabbing an opponent by the throat; a word meaning to flay an animal; and a word used to describe the humiliation of a criminal who was paraded in front of a crowd with a dagger tied to his neck, its point under his chin so he could not put his head down. That is what the Truth is really like! It grabs us by the throat, it flays us wide open, it forces us to look into the face of God. When is the last time you and I heard God’s Truth and were grabbed by the throat?
Unfortunately, those of us who have been entrusted with the terrifying, frightening, Good News have become obsessed with making Christianity safe. We have defanged the tiger of Truth. We have tamed the Lion, and now Christianity is so sensible, so accepted, so palatable.
Who is afraid of God anymore?
We are afraid of unemployment, we are afraid of our cities, we are afraid of the collapse of our government, we are afraid of not being fulfilled, we are afraid of AIDS, but we are not afraid of God.
I would like to suggest that the Church become a place of terror again; a place where God continually has to tell us, “Fear not”; a place where our relationship with God is not a simple belief or doctrine or theology, it is God’s burning presence in our lives. I am suggesting that the tame God of relevance be replaced by the God whose very presence shatters our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. The Church needs to become a gloriously dangerous place where nothing is safe in God’s presence except us. Nothing—including our plans, our agendas, our priorities, our politics, our money, our security, our comfort, our possessions, our needs.
The two men on the road to Emmaus knew they had been with Jesus because their “hearts burned from within.” The impotence of today’s Church, the weakness of Christ’s followers, and the irrelevance of most parachurch organizations is directly related to the lack of being in the presence of an awesome, holy God, who continually demands allegiance only to Him—not to our churches, our organizations, or our theology.
We believe in a God who wants all of us—every bit of us—and He wants us all the time. He wants our worship and our love, but most of all He wants us to trust Him. We have to be more in awe of God than we are of our government, more in awe of God than we are of our problems, more in awe of God than we are of our beliefs about abortion, more in awe of God than we are of our doctrines and agendas. Our God is perfectly capable of calming the storm or putting us into the middle of one. Either way, if it’s God, we will be speechless and trembling.
Our world is tired of people whose God is tame. It is longing to see people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender…and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He longs to whisper those terrifying words, “I love you.”
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