Sunday, October 02, 2011

What Are You Afraid Of?

Waldorf College Chapel
August 31, 2011

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” --1 John 4:18
John 14:27 – Peace I give to you, My peace I leave you. I do not give to as you the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

What Are You Afraid Of?
Lately, I’ve had a couple of different conversations about fear and so I’ve done a lot of thinking about it. We all have fears, right? I think the number one fear that people have is public speaking, and quite frankly, I can attest to that fear. It can be scary getting up here and talking in front of people—and then when you add praying to it can be even worse! I also have a fear of pronouncing Mamisoa’s name incorrectly and so I always, always call her Sera even if I am thinking Mamisoa.

Many of you attending college for the first time may be experiencing fear and homesickness. You are entering a new world where you will be living with new people, experiencing new things, and that can be scary. You hope you will make good friends and be accepted and do well in class but college is a big difference from high school, and that fear of the unknown is always lurking.
Or maybe you are afraid because you aren’t sure what you are supposed to be doing with your life, or afraid of getting hurt when you play a sport, or afraid of forgetting your lines in a play.

Fear can grip us because we just don’t know what to expect. And if the outcome is not what we were hoping for, our fear can then give way to anger.

And when we are experiencing fear and anger and any bad stuff that is happening in our lives, it is SO hard to see how God can be at work. But sometimes, it is during those times when God is at work the most or when we realize we need God the most. These are the times when we can be vulnerable and open with each other.

And that’s really hard to do.

It’s so easy to pretend that everything is ok on the outside—think about how many times a day you see someone and they say “how are you?” and you answer “good” and the other person responds the same and you both go on your way. But is “good” the right answer? How many times do we respond that way when really, we are dying inside? We are afraid because a family member is dying or our parents are splitting up or we partied too hard on the weekend and don’t know what the consequences of that will be. Or we’re angry because someone we love lost a job or someone we love hurt us or the people in our lives just don’t seem to understand us.

We can’t let fear and anger take control of us.

When we do let them take control of us, it keeps us from really trusting God. And we have to trust him—in good times and in bad times—because unfortunately, we can only control so much of our lives, even though we want to control all of it.

Even though the book of Job in the Old Testament is a long book that can actually be kind of boring and very difficult to follow, Job makes a great point to his wife. When bad stuff happens to him, she tells him to curse God and die and he responds with “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?" (Job 2:10). It’s really easy for us to say “Praise the Lord” when wonderful things happen to us but infinitely harder to do it when we are faced with the bad things in life, because that is when we ask “Why, God?” We don’t ask “why, God?” when the blessings come our way. Maybe that’s something we need to reverse at times—ask why God when the good things happen and praise him when the bad things happen.

Let’s go back to those verses that we heard earlier, particularly just one little phrase from the verse from 1 John. “perfect love casts out fear”.

What I love about this small phrase is that it tells me that God’s perfect love is bigger than anything I am experiencing (even though I don’t do a good job of remembering it). Also, the word “perfect” in our culture gives a connotation that goes along with perfectionism and we really need to make sure we don’t attribute that understanding here. In the Greek language that this was written in, the word there can also be translated as “complete” or “mature”. So the perfection that we haven’t reached isn’t about how good we are at love but our maturity in love. When we fear we are not loving as we should (and, love in this instance is agape love—the self-giving kind). So basically, we could potentially read the whole verse like this (I am nowhere near an expert in languages and translation; I can’t even read it well but I have tools to let me find out what the words are):

…mature, self-giving love throws away the fear…whoever fears has not reached mature, self-giving love…

And really…will any of us ever reach it? I think the only person who has accomplished that is Jesus. And so we can only rely on his love and strength to get through it. Which, if we back up a few verses, we see this:

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. --1 John 4:12

So it is God’s self-giving love that is made mature or complete in us…not our own.

We do not have to give in to our fear. This God that we believe in; this God that we believe is revealed in Jesus; this God that is present with us in the Holy Spirit, is the God that makes all things new, who can take that fear and turn it around into trust that we can have for Him…so that we do not have to be afraid, so that our fears can be cast out, thrown away, by His perfect love.


Robert said...

Kelly- saw you comment at Rachels blog so came to check yours out. WOW!!!! This post touched me so strongly kelly!!! Fear is one of my biggest struggles and agonizing over the verse you expounded upon about perfect actually meaning mature!!!1 A light turned on for me. I have ached and groaned over my inabilty to actualzie perfect love casting out fear in a perfectionistic, all fear gone if perfect love is in me Your exegeisis speaks life!!! Especially saying how we may never fully reach that point as only Jesus truly has!!! Thanks for this post kelly!!! Check out my blog at sometime when you get a chance. I love your sharing how you like to ask questions and learn as you go.

Kelly said...

Robert, I am so glad this spoke to you! Your comment made me smile as I just sat down and saw it in my email, and what you said will actually be playing into something that I'll be writing later today!