For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV
Fear is a powerful emotion. It is an emotion that drives us, controls us, and can make us think and do things that would otherwise be unthinkable or uncharacteristic of yourself. Fear tells us to stop, to fight, to run. I have been overwhelmed recently by the number of articles, sermons, meetings, and conversations with Christians, and even Christian church leaders filled with fear. Most often fear of the “other.” If you google any hot topic in society and Christian, you will quickly find hundreds of articles about why you should be afraid of the “other.” Who is the other, each article has a different one, but there is a common trait of the other: they are not like me. The other might like different music, wear different clothes, share differently ethical dilemmas, or have a different way of reading the bible. In each case the articles are similar. Be afraid of the other, followed by quotes from scripture telling you that you should not associate with people “like them,” for fear that you might catch their other disease and be tainted forever.
After reading one of these recently I wrestled with the implications of the article. If I were to only talk to those like me, and to avoid those who share different beliefs for fear of their thought negatively impacting me, we could just shut down the church. Scripture tells us in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” One of the biggest things Jesus was ridiculed for was hanging out with “those people,” individuals entrenched in habits, addictions, and patterns of sin and disobedience to God. Jesus even says in Luke 14,
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Let’s be clear, sin is pervasive, and is seeking opportunities to dig into your soul, and we need to be thoughtful about that. Yet, we are not called to be a fearful people who put up walls and avoid the other. We are called to model the gospel in our lives, be clear about what the bible calls us to be, and humble enough to admit that we are not anywhere near perfect in living it out ourselves.