Catherine McNiel writes about the creative and redemptive work of God in our real, ordinary lives. Her upcoming book, Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for Our Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies, just released from NavPress in February 2022. Catherine studies theology while caring for three kids, two jobs, and one enormous garden.
If Jesus commands Christians to love their neighbors, why are so many North American Christians taught to fear their neighbors? The US church is known as a people who are afraid, who have been nurtured through fear into hatred, and who have moved from hatred to violence—or at least to neglect. This fear, too often lived out boldly in the name of Jesus, is a false religion.
If God instructs Christians to welcome strangers, why are so many US Christians ignoring the scriptural commands that say not to withhold hospitality or help from anyone in need? So why do we fear strangers, especially those needing hospitality, afraid that their presence may threaten what we have?
If Jesus taught all of His followers to love their enemies, why aren’t more North American Christians regularly praying and hearing sermons about how to pray for those who actively harm them? Instead, many church-goers in this polarized context, create enemies in their minds, seeing anyone who thinks, believes, looks, or lives differently from North American Christians as dangerous, a threat to their way of living.
The Christian community exists to declare and demonstrate God’s love and to follow Jesus in practicing love over fear, even in unsafe times and places. It’s time to call all people of faith to reclaim our brave fear of God and risk transformative love for the sake of our neighbors, the strangers among us, and our enemies.
Christians are to be people of God’s Kingdom, which is a place of flourishing and belonging where all nations, races, tribes and languages are welcome. Fearing Bravely teaches us that we have nothing to fear. Instead, we can respond to our fear problem with a brave love that emerges from choosing to let our fear and awe of God overcome our fear of everything else.
Catherine McNiel writes with conviction, wisely guiding us to recognize our fear and, with God’s help, not let it limit us to love courageously all who are among us.
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