Alan, is one of the good guys. We served in the same church for a few years. He taught me more than anyone else about how to serve a community you love without caring much about reward. Whether it was setting up a projector, washing dishes, preaching at church or leading an Alpha Course small group, Alan throws his life and energy into doing it at the best of his ability. Like I said, he is one of the good guys.
About a week ago Alan wrote this one facebook, “So I just found out the most common command in the Bible is “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid”. That’s pretty awesome…” He’s right of course, if there is one thing that the Bible throws out to us it is that simple message: ‘don’t be afraid.
Simple? No, not really. Fear is the enemy of anything good in our lives. At the root of most of the pain in my life has been fear of something. I hold back challenge and sometimes encouragement from those who I love for fear of rejection. I am often ungenerous to those in need with my money, time and things, for fear of not having enough for myself. I have let opportunity pass me by for fear of failure and I have suffered needlessly for fear that standing up for myself would make it worse. If you wrote that list it would be different, but the reality is that few of us live lives free of fear, and those that do? Well they are incredible; I’ll have what they are drinking.
The things that we fear are often deeply connected to what we value most. I value relationships above everything else so the fear of them being damaged, difficult or messy is perhaps one of the strongest fears I face. So I do all I can to keep peace but this can lead to me actually being a bad friend. I become complicit in the pain in my friends lives by not having challenged them or encouraged them to make choices that their failure to make led to difficulty. My desire to feel loved in relationships can actually be playing out as fear of rejection. If I had taken the risk to be rejected perhaps I could have helped my friends avoid pain.
If your love is material, then your behaviours that your fears are driving will focus on the protection of material things. Your fears can betray what is important to you. Much our behaviour is governed by a fear of losing what we love, rather than by that love for those people or things. Well what’s the difference? I know that the things I do from fear are often negative behaviours, I.e I don’t X because I am scared of Y happening. The things I do from love are much more positive. I do A all the time because I love B. Fear compresses life; love amplifies.
So we come back to the promise and the call of the Bible, do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of failure, lack or pain. Do not be afraid of people or rejection. Do not be afraid, instead be love, for love overcomes fear. For in every moment of limited life that I give over to fear I have missed the chance to grow my life in love. This is not a love built of feelings. This is love built of action and behaviour, a love of words and reality. It is doing the loving thing inspite of the feelings of fear. Do not be afraid, for the actions of love hold more weight than the inaction of fear.
There is a rich seam of loving community within the fabric of who City Life Church. I am so fortunate to have stumbled into this community to experience it. What these people want for me is that I do great things. It is what we want for our friends. Whether consciously or not this is a community that is following the encouragement in Hebrews 10 to ‘spur each other on to love and good deeds.’ Let us be those who sow love into each others lives. Let us be the ones who love each other out of fear. Let us be those who overcome the fears in our lives by giving and receiving love. Love overcomes fear and we believe in a God who self identifies as love. May you find the love of God and may it spur you on to overcome those fears.
As for you Alan, thanks for teaching me two things buddy. Firstly, how to serve without the need for praise, and that I don’t need to be afraid.