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Monday, July 13, 2015

"No Fear in Love" (Andy Braner)

TITLE: No Fear in Love: Loving Others the Way God Loves Us
AUTHOR: Andy Braner
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (192 pages).

The Bible says that there is no fear in love. What does that mean? In many societies, fear is a powerful and effective tool to make people follow the rules. It can also be used in relationships to keep people in check. Unfortunately, it has a lot more negative connotations and unhelpful consequences. Worse of all is the fear that grows inside us. In this book, author and founder of Ahava Ministries, a non-profit youth ministry that teaches a Christian worldview to young people, shows us that we can love fearlessly even in the midst of disagreements. Written in three sections, the first section deals with personal encounters with fear. The second section covers the author's encounter with specific worldviews. The third section works on the wider culture at large.

In Section One, we see a personal view of fear. When we are able to love people the way God loves them, we will no longer be afraid to touch on taboo topics like abortion, homosexuality, immigration, and many other controversial topics. All it takes is a change of perspective, something that Braner learns when he starts to deal with his inner fears. He realizes that his work is not the most important thing; trials are not the most terrible; natural events are not the most disastrous; but to know God inside and to hunger for God. From his forest fire encounter, he realizes how fear can often take over the person's life and corrupts everything. Just as one is fearful of failure, there is a corresponding fear in succeeding; For example, the fear of not able to sustain that success. Going back to the biblical model of holy fear, he shows us that when we put our human frailties and anxieties in its proper place, we are better able to live free and to live without fear. Through understanding, we bridge racial and religious gaps. Through places of common thought, we know that truth can be expressed in other ways, not just ours. Just because we cannot convince others does not make our beliefs wrong. In the same light, just because others can express their religions well does not make them right either. If we are in the search for truth, there is no fear in expecting truth to show up in whatever truth forms it takes. We can learn of Jesus on how fear can be dealt with as we share in the fellowship of suffering.

Section Two extends the coverage of fear to one's relationships with other worldviews. In theological tussles with the Mormons, Scientologists, and the Jehovah Witnesses, are we more afraid of losing an argument? Or are we more afraid that we are not able to express the truth we know? Maybe we are embarrassed about our lack of knowledge about our own faith? During these times, in the spirit of God is love, we can choose to care for the person rather than to be too concerned about what people believe. In relating to Muslims, Braner has to deal with his fears of terrorism and Islamic radicalism. When at a mall in the Middle East, he cannot help but be amazed that many typical Muslim families share many things in common with non-Muslims in the West. They all want a good life, a reasonable standard of living, with similar desires for happiness. In his visit to the mosque, he experienced an excitement that begins with common ground, that both Muslims and Christians can start with common beliefs and work from there. It reminds me that very often, when we interact with people who are different from us, we tend to begin with differences rather than similarities. Why not begin with what is similar? When we are able to overcome these basic differences and to work on common grounds, we can start to build relationships by inviting each other to our homes for a meal, which plant seeds for greater harmony and understanding.

Section Three takes aim at other popular issues of fear. Some of these issues are more prevalent among teens, such as sex and abortion. Others touch on the homosexuality debates, where Braner brings up the example of Chick-fil-A, to show that one can believe in heterosexual unions without being haters of homosexuals. One illustration of how a little girl chooses to stand with her parents on the side of traditional marriage that advocates marriage between a man and a woman, and at the same time, holding up a sign that says: "Free Chicken Sandwiches For Gay Couples." While affirming one's stand on traditional marriage, one at the same time asserts acceptance of people who disagree with them. This is the area which more people need to work on to avoid the simplistic dichotomy of "we vs the rest."

Fear is nothing new, but it is prevalent. Fear has been written about before by other authors and this book may seem to be another addition to the huge library of resources. The fact is simply this; because fear is so prominent, and that it is unlikely to go away anytime soon, there is always room for one more book to help us deal with fear. This book is one of them, written for the lay person.

Fear is like cancer. It is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) threats to faith. It enters slowly; Spreads gradually; attracts aggressively all kinds attention to itself, both legitimate and illegitimate. With fear comes stress, anxiety, and all negative images that only serve to aggravate matters. Worse, it creates fear in loved ones around us too. What then shall we do? Remember this. Fear is sometimes called "False Evidence Appearing Real." Thanks to Braner, we have another resource to battle this fear.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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