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Need some perspective on overcoming fear

Hi guys. I know the community hasn't been super-active for awhile, but I'm hoping that maybe this post happens across some of your friends pages and I coud get some perspective.

I'm Courtney, I'm 30, and I've been around the comm for awhile, but I think this is my first time posting.

What I struggle with is fear, particularly fear of hell. I'm sure all Christians at some point or another have dealt with this, but mine is overly large, ongoing, and debilitating.

I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church, and while God's mercy and love were talked about, they weren't really emphasized. It was fire and brimstone, judgement, sin, etc. As a teen and even into college, I was pretty much the sterotypical super straight-laced good little Christian girl, and as result didn't experience much in terms of actual life.

As I got older, I realized that the things I was doing, my behavior, wasn't motivated by love for God or committment to Him, but rather out of fear and shame. I knew this had to change. But how does one begin to love a God who seems terrifying and harsh cruel? The very idea of the Gospel as I understand it seems cruel: Choose Jesus or burn.

Has anyone else dealt with these kinds of feelings? How does one begin to get a balanced view of God? If you've felt this kind of fear, how did you work through it?

I know this is a sensitive and harsh subject, so I appreciate any thoughts or advice you could offer.

Thanks.

Comments

paedraggaidin
Apr. 21st, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
I think that all denominations are unfortunately subject to the error of believing that the point of the Gospel is "choose Jesus or burn." Although in my experience it's found more often in Fundamentalist churches (especially those of a more Calvinist persuasion), way too many Catholics, Orthodox, and mainline Protestants speak and act as if Jesus actually said "follow me or burn in Hell." And I suppose it's an easy thing for churches and Christians to slide into that error, when the focus of their faith is sin, instead of what (I believe) is the primary message of the Gospel, which is (a) in fulfillment of prophecy and the Covenant, Christ died to redeem our sins and rose to bring us to new life in Him, (b) we must practice the Greatest Commandment (thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and love thy neighbour as thyself) and what we Catholics call the Corporal Works of Mercy (feed the hungry. give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit and ransom the captive, visit the sick, and bury the dead), and (c) we must spread the Gospel to all the ends of the Earth.

Sin is real, evil is real, and teaching about sin and its consequences is, of course, part of the Gospel, but it is not the only, and certainly not the most important, part. Too many churches place an undue emphasis on sin, guilt, shame, and fear, without also emphasizing redemption, and especially the redemptive suffering of Christ on the Cross, and without emphasizing God's mercy. And way too many churches and individual Christians put a wholly undue emphasis on certain kinds of sin. Some churches place such a heavy emphasis on sin and fear of an angry God that I think all other parts of the Gospel message are swallowed up.

I'll defer to Pastor Lenny's advice here (he rocks), but just know that fear is not the basis of faith.

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