Friday, April 19, 2013

Moving from Fear to Transformation

I recently discovered a website that lists all the legitimate phobias that could be identified. Currently the list documents 530 diagnosed conditions of fear.

I have a dear friend visiting right now from England. I am so happy that I do not suffer from Anglophobia. I am considering having some bacon for breakfast. Thankfully, I do not have Carnophobia. I am alive and wish to stay that way as long as possible, but at least I am not immersed in Thanatophobia.

But wait: Maybe I am. Thanatophobia is fear of dying. I may not be overwhelming by that documentable phobia, but I am clearly not interested in undergoing a premature death.

Recent events, however, suggest that the possibility—even the inevitability—of death hovers over all of us. Young children are sent off merrily to school and are killed by a mentally ill gunman. Runners engaged in an annual marathon and are blown up at the finish line, possibly at the hand of terrorists. A fertilizer plant in Texas explodes, taking lives and shattering an entire town.

Perhaps we can’t be blamed for just a touch of Thanatophobia.

Fear, however, often results in protectiveness (understandably so), and protectiveness can morph into protectivism (protectiveness as a core value), and the process can spawn anger, which can whip into rage. And rage wants retribution and punishment.

We who follow Jesus are told over and over again in our scriptures to fear not. But we do. And we continue to be given reasons to fear.

When we speak of following Jesus, it is insufficient to say that we follow what he taught, as important as that is. It is insufficient to claim that we are Christians because we have affirmed a particular creed or list of doctrinal statements. There must be something more to all of this, or we will project our protectivism onto our belief system and our fear will be the dominant characteristic of our faith.

The more that is required has to do with our lives being truly and deeply changed. I’m not speaking only of change that is expressed in our behaviors, but change that impacts the very essence of who we are as human beings. And the narrative of our faith insists that such change comes at the hand of God, expressed in the real, historic life of Jesus, and poured into our lives through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Without such spiritual transformation—a transformation that the Bible characterizes as a movement from death to life, from darkness to light—then we’re only left with religious turf to defend. And that’s a battle that is fueled by fear.

When we see God face-to-face someday, I hope that our trembling comes, not from fear, but from joy and adoration.

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