Summertime brings out the reader in me, there is just something in the cherry blossoms and open patios of this city that make me crave adventures with the brave and conversations with the great. My current read is called Everybody Always, and it was written by a man named Bob Goff. He’s one of my heroes. He is dear to my heart because he is just a regular guy who wants to love people like Jesus did. He’s an incredible storyteller and a starry-eyed dreamer. He’s honest about his fears, but he doesn’t let them hold him back.
His combination of fearlessness and desire to love everyone around him has taken him to incredible places: Mount Kilimanjaro, Iraq, Gulu, Disneyland. He always includes his cell phone number in the back of his books because he wants to hear from his readers; he wants to be with the people Jesus loves. One time I heard him speak at a conference, during his closing prayer he stood on the shoulders of two linebackers right in the middle of the auditorium so that he could be a part of the crowd and not apart from it.
I love and hate this. The crowd is messy, unpredictable, unfocussed, unsanitary, and dare I even say it – scary. I get anxious when things are out of my control and I often become paralyzed with fear. I don’t know when I got this way, but somewhere between birth and yesterday, fear has become a dominating force in my life. I think I like Bob so much because he laughs in the face of fear and I secretly wish I could do the same.
I think sometimes something happens in our Christian upbringings that does us a great disservice. I think we can somehow get the notion that we need to defend Jesus. I grew up in youth groups, Church choirs, and Sunday School classrooms and somewhere in those places a divide was created between the world that loved Jesus and the world that did not. We fall prey to the idea that we need to save His Church and that we need to make sure the world knows how awesome He is. I think this pressure of saving and defending can twist and turn into fear. I think fear turns us into people who create castes of Christians and pecking orders of sin.
Praying with others reminds me how deep God’s love runs. It reminds me that we when we come to the cross we do so on level ground.
Please don’t get me wrong, we need to know what the Bible says and we need to know what to say to those who would oppose our faith, but I don’t think any of that means that Jesus can’t defend Himself. I think this fear leads us to control and away from trust. It can focus us inwards to our own unworthiness and distort our ability to proclaim the good news of Jesus. We become afraid that if we can’t defend Jesus, He can’t defend Himself. We can get so caught up in serving this fear, in defending poor helpless Jesus, that we forget why He came to earth in the first place. He came because God loved us. Individually and collectively, Jesus came because His father loved us.
When we forget we are loved, we become enslaved by fear. We become suspicious of our neighbour, distrusting of our friends, and we turn to isolation. We exclude those who are different than us because we fall prey to the lie that they don’t belong. We lose our ability to open our arms to those who hurt, who need encouragement, or who simply need a place at the table. We forget that we belong to each other. Fear has an incredible way of re-orienting our internal compasses so that they no longer point true North.
I serve on the prayer team at St. Peter’s as a way of pushing back against this fear. Praying for others reminds me that God doesn’t need my defence, He created every hair on my head. He doesn’t need me to prove what a great saviour He is, he promised the thief on the cross dinner in paradise. He doesn’t need me to segregate, organize and divide up His followers, He has already set the table.
When I realize this, it gives me so much free time to learn how to love others like He did. It gives me time to invite, celebrate and spend time with those in His family. Praying with others reminds me how deep God’s love runs. It reminds me that we when we come to the cross we do so on level ground. Praying with others allows me, even if only for a moment, to offer warmth and shelter to those who need a helping hand. It allows me to feel the heartbeat of God’s people as we walk toward salvation. It teaches me daily that God’s love shouts loud, for everybody. Always.