Fear & Certainty

There are two great enemies of faith and often our churches peddle them both. 

The first is fear. In the worst cases, religion becomes scaremongering. "How do you think a just God will treat people who [fill in the sin]?" But even in more subtle ways, Christian spirituality can become a faith of fear, one that says, "Let's hedge our bets. Let's stay away from that substance, that scene, that TV / film rating because it's dangerous. After all, we might like it!" This kind of spirituality puts the behavioral cart before the relational horse. It is, as many leaders have dubbed it, a "gospel of sin management." But the gospel of Jesus strikes first at the heart. It captures our imaginations and our affections and then our allegiances inform our behavior, not the other way around. 

The most common command given in scripture is "be not afraid." When Christian behavior is motivated by faith, love and risk for a higher purpose, then it is good, I don't care what it is. Likewise, when our behavior is motivated by fear and timidity, we aren't following Jesus closely. 

The second great enemy of faith is certainty. The entire sweep of the Bible — the move of every Christian from infancy to maturity — is from certainty to mystery, from law to grace, from behavior to motive. 

Doubt is not the enemy of faith. Doubt, in fact, is a key ingredient in faith. Great doubters have great faith because the more doubt we overcome, the more faith we have to have. It doesn't take great faith to trust in the sure thing. There is no heroic risk in believing that the sun will rise or the Cubs will lose. But believing that God will come through? That his reward is better than whatever we can grab ourselves? That heaven is real and death isn't permanent? That takes faith. And those are things worth doubting. 

Jesus was neither fearful nor dogmatic. He was courageous and mysterious. He spoke the hard truth in riddles. He believed the impossible. He created scandal. He upended the logical. He eschewed the religious. If our faith makes God predictable or comfort respectable, then we should question its source. 

Ryan SandersComment