Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Negating the Fear Factor

We who know Christ are in the midst of an incredibly opportune season. Economic stories have completely overshadowed all others because of both the breadth and depth of the crisis. As markets meltdown globally, fear and anxiety are evident everywhere. People have lost paper wealth, and as the crisis deepens the number of people losing real assets like cars and homes will increase too. No matter what your view on either the source of the crisis or the solution (and I know we won't all agree on these matters), one thing is certain: we are called to confidence and boldness, not fear. Here's why:

1. Our calling is simply to allow the resurrected Jesus, who lives in us, to find expression through our lives. If I'm confident that Jesus is alive in me, confident that He has a good measure of freedom to express His life through me, then I'm able to walk into each and every day with the assurance God will be at work. As I've encountered fear among people in this past weeks due to economic matters, I've realized that there are many ways to be paralyzed be fear. For some, in the present, it's money matters. But numerous fears paralyze: fear of confrontation, fear of rejection, fear of intimacy, fear of being alone, fear of rejection, fear of ideas different than our own, fear of people who are different than us. And here's the thing: If I live my life with the primary goal being to avoid that which I fear, I will lose my capacity to display Christ. "Fear Not" is a governing theme throughout the life of God's people, and we can clearly see how God's people lost their light because of fear.

2. Times of upheaval have the great effect of helping us sift through our priorities and determine what really matters. In 'normal' times, many of us allow a great deal of chaff into our lives, as we squander moments and dollars on things that either don't matter, or are terribly destructive. But when shaking occurs, the things that matter are things to which we are instinctively drawn. As a result, times of shaking often have the effect of clarifying and purifying our lives. Job, at the very end of his journey of trials, said that before his trials, he'd heard God, but now he sees God. Periods of shaking are a small price to pay if the fruit of them is a greater capacity to see God!

3. We're not here to build private little comfortable lives. We're here to embody the hope of Christ, and history tells us that this light will shine brightest in the midst of darkness. This is why Habakkuk's questions about why God's people would need to go through suffering ultimately vanished. Habakkuk's bold, fearless conclusion can be found here.

4. Paul could see, behind the twists and turns of both macro and micro history, that God was providing opportunities. Thus he was able to write from a prison dungeon that his circumstances were resulting in the furtherance of the gospel. The theme of 'rejoicing' permeates his letter from prison, as Bonhoeffer's letters from prison would do centuries later. For both, the proper of focus of being a voice of hope in the midst of troubling times allowed them to rejoice, right in the midst of meltdowns.
Our goal in life determines our anxiety level. If my goal is have my party win in November, or preserve my 401k, then I've got a lot of anxiety right now. Sure; I care about who wins. I care about my financial future. But my goal is to embody Christ's hope, live generously, and declare through my life, that of my family, and that of my church, that the kingdom of God is near. And this is a hope that no stock graph can shake!


At 11/10/08 15:36, Blogger Patrick said...

I think we also have the opportunity to be a voice in creating a new paradigm based on responsibility, sustainability, and generosity, rather than on greed, excess growth, and selfishness.

At 11/10/08 16:44, Blogger Odyssey said...

As true Christ followers we are certainly perched on the edge of the abyss. We are being given a supreme (literally) opportunity to shine for what we believe. Let's all take some to catch our collective breaths and as Richard says in his book, inhale AND exhale true faith in our Savior.

At 11/10/08 21:51, Blogger Outish said...

Back when I was at University, which I suppose was not so long ago, I had the privelage of taking a Theology course that talked a lot about fear. There are a lot of things to be afraid of, too many, people can let themselves become controlled by fear even when those fears are completely unrealistic. Fear has become a strong tool of influence in our society and it is used by everyone from presidential candidates to deoderant ads to influence how you think, how you feel, how you shop. (For more on this check out Scott Bader-Saye's book "Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear")

But even armed with this knowledge I find myself more than a little nervous today, this current economic problem feels very real. Very big.

I found it very insightful to think about the way that Richard talked about our response to troubled times. You'll notice he doesn't say, "trust in the Lord and everything will be fine". Which is what I thought was coming, and always provokes some cynicism from me. But what is suggested instead is that when we face hard times, instead of passively waiting for the Lord to provide, we are rather called to proactively live out God's will. I never thought of it that way. I think that would take some real courage.

At 12/10/08 10:31, Blogger jonie broecker said...

Thank you so much.

At 12/10/08 12:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for this great reminder. I am an anxious person and its a good reminder to look at where my eyes are set...

my husband and I briefly attended your church before we had to move away unexpectedly. I "lurk" on your blog frequently- we miss Bethany!


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