The task of speaking about God and His plans for the world has always been a daunting one. As humans, we are not perfect and we do not know everything, yet we must do the best we can to talk about this most important idea. As Christians, the story about God and how it relates to us is the core of how we understand everything in life. So we must talk about God, but we must do it humbly, and we must be honest with ourselves when certain words and phrases that worked well in the past, do not serve us as well today. That brings us to the question of why so many people today seem to “get saved” and then get gone.
The idea of “getting saved” isn’t a phrase that most non-church people are familiar with. Normally it’s presented to them as the idea that God can save you from something: a meaningless life, your own selfishness, or being on fire forever in a place called hell. The thought is that if you follow God you won’t be set on fire forever. So, the speaker is counting on the person’s fear to cause them to choose to follow God. If this is the case then the following is only as strong as the fear. That means that when the fear leaves, the following fades. It’s as if the person is being chased to God all the while having their eyes fixed on what’s behind them that may cause them harm, but as soon as the coast looks clear and they see no danger, they walk away from God. No danger = no need for protection. This causes speakers to try to create fear constantly in the hearts of their listeners. Fear of the world being overrun by evil, fear of death, fear of hell after death, fear of Christianity being swept away by other beliefs. But, here’s where things begin to break down.
No one wants to live in fear every day. Fear is miserable and exhausting, and we can only handle so much of it before we break. (Not the mention the fact that God didn’t create us to live in fear) So, people leave the church and sometimes leave God. They find ways to distract themselves from the constant fear. And leaders are left scratching their heads wondering what went wrong.
I don’t want to throw stones at anyone, or even begin to try to say that somehow I have better intentions than other people. By and large, I feel most Christian leaders do have good intentions, it’s just that they’ve forgotten how to talk to people. They often see people as a means to an end. They care and they want to reach out, it just tends to come across as manipulation instead of love. As a beginning of a solution I would like to offer up the thought that love is a greater motivator than fear. If someone comes to God because they love Him, then their eyes aren’t fixed on what they may be afraid of that’s behind them, but on the God that they want to know better. Running to God instead of away from hell is about relationship not just self-preservation. That is important, because we were created for relationship, and when we find it, our souls are soothed.
So, I’m not afraid of the rise of Islam, or the dangers to traditional marriage in America, but I do care. I care because I care about the people involved. I’m not afraid, because the God I love (albeit imperfectly) is bigger than those issues.The job he has given me (and I believe all followers of God) is to care for others, especially those unlike ourselves. So don’t be afraid, but love. Love the best you can wherever you can. Love wisely with humility and patience, and trust that God has a firm grasp on all the rest.