Fearful or Fearless?
The concept of fear is not foreign to educators. Children are often fearful. They are fearful of making mistakes, fearful of trying something new, fearful of asking questions, fearful of being hurt, or fearful of rejection. When fear takes control, our students often refuse to engage. Our efforts to encourage them may prove fruitless. I suspect all us at some point have stood by and helplessly watched as a child missed out on opportunity to grow and learn. As an educator, this can be heartbreaking.
Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I feel quite certain God gave us the emotion of fear to protect us. A healthy fear of the right thing (e.g., a fire) could save our lives. However, the enemy of our souls cunningly uses emotions, like fear, to create confusion. Fear can cause us to become more like fearful students than the courageous Christ followers we are called to be. This breaks the heart of God. Instead of experiencing the abundant life, too many believers settle for complacency and miss out on God’s perfect plan for their lives.
The fear I am talking about here is not the fear of physical harm. Many Christian educators, especially those in public schools, are afraid to share their beliefs. We shy away from letting anyone know we are a follower of Christ. When prayer was taken out of the schools in the 60’s, the phrase “separation of church and state” became a tool to silence Christians. We gave the law, or our fear of the law, too much power over us. The law should not dictate our faith. The law should not dictate who we are in Christ Jesus. The law should not dictate our courage. So, what does the law dictate?
The First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Within this there are two provisions: The Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause prohibits laws requiring that anyone accept any belief or creed or the practice of any form of worship. The Free Exercise Clause safeguards the freedom to engage in a chosen form of religion.
Basically, we can’t force our view of faith on our students, and we have to allow them the freedom to choose their own path when it comes to religion. I am not an expert on the law, and I acknowledge I need to do more digging on this topic. While I recognize this can be a bit tricky, I don’t believe we have to fear the law. Fear silences us. Nothing in the law states that you and I can’t be Christlike. Don’t let the law or a fear of the law dictate who you are in Christ Jesus. One of my favorite verses is Galatians 5:22-23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
I can’t help but wonder if there may be something else that makes Christian educators fearful to share our beliefs. Is there more to it than just the law? Could it be, like our students, we are afraid of making mistakes? After all, if we let others know we are a Christian, they will be watching us, right? We know we will be held to a higher standard, and we also know we may fail. As a result, when fear prevails, we stay quiet. This way if we do fall short, we won’t be considered a hypocrite. This form of rationalization is nothing more than a scheme of the devil. In Romans 3:23, Paul reminds us: For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Yes, we will all miss the mark throughout our lifetime. However, those who know Christ have hope. There is grace for those who believe. Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from being obedient to what God has called you to do. If we fail, which we will, we should repent, apologize to the offended, and do everything we can to make it right. The person we hurt may not forgive us, but God will.
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9
Finally, many of us simply fear rejection. Social acceptance seems to be wired into our DNA. Everyone wants to be liked and accepted. The explosion of social media has made this quite apparent. Being transparent about our faith could invite criticism. We could lose friends, experience unfair treatment, and ultimately be ostracized. I shudder to think how many times I may have bypassed an opportunity to share my faith simply because I was worried about what others might think.
Lord, help us when our self-preservation takes precedence over another’s salvation. Don’t let the fear of rejection prevent someone else from knowing Jesus. Suffering rejection is a privilege if one less person spends eternity in hell. Ask Jesus. His level of rejection was above anything you and I will ever experience.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
Needless to say, these fears are REAL, but these fears are not from God. God calls us be bold and courageous.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Managing our fears to share about Jesus will take intentionality. You can bet Satan will pull out all the stops to prevent us from living out our faith. Let’s take a look at some steps we can take to be fearless, not fearful.
1. Acknowledge your fears. The first step to overcoming fear is identifying what frightens you and why.
2. Pray. Tell God your fears. He knows them anyway.
3. Speak God’s Word and claim His promises. Tell Satan to stand down!
The Lord is for me, I will not fear. What can man do to me? It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Psalm 116:6, 8
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
Fearful or fearless? The difference is life-changing for you and those around you.