The scripture comes from 1 John, Chapter 4. It leaves one to thinking about the fears that keep us from embracing our status as children of God or loving others in our words and actions. Our fears keep us from being the individuals we want to be as followers of Jesus. And, in the same way, they keep us from being the community of faith that God intends for us.
Our human tendency is to let our fears seem so much bigger than they are. That is not to say we do not have difficult situations or forces of evil with which to deal. We do. The problem is that we let our fears grow beyond any ability to overcome them. As we let our fears grow, we at the same time lose sight of how big God’s love is.
Trust in Jesus helps us return our fears to their proper size. Faith in God opens the door to a flood of love, mercy, grace and forgiveness so much more abundant than we could ever imagine. This is the key that unlocks the door.
Rudy Rasmus, in the book “Jesus Insurgency: The Church Revolution from the Edge,” writes about the process of what happens when our faith overcomes our fear:
“We have some work to do. We might have to become a little less judgmental as we bring Jesus to the world. We might have to become a little more loving. We might have to relinquish, for a season, or even forever, our need to control the way people think of our faith experience. We may have to focus on love” (Page 46).
We have become focused on maintaining a denominational structure and lost our first love. We have become reactive and fearful. Rudy writes as a Methodist, saying we are not the church John Wesley founded. Other churches experience the same loss of first love. Being the church on the edge means finding those in our community who most need God’s love. The folks whom good, churchgoing people have forsaken. It is a challenge to set aside our judgmental nature and just dive in and love people. It is risky. It is messy. It is exactly what Jesus did. John Wesley did not start to change the world until he set aside what he learned in university and went out to preach in the fields to the miners, the factory workers and the rabble who would not set foot in a proper Anglican church.
It is time to embrace revival thinking. We can do that when we remember God is so much bigger than all our fears. God loves us, and there is plenty of love to share with the hurting and broken folks in our community. When we follow Jesus, we get out and share God’s love with others. We don’t talk about loving the world; we go out and show the world God’s love.
•The Rev. Kevin Campbell is pastor of Federated Methodist-Presbyterian Church. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.