By Rev. Deb Stehlin
My first 1:1 as a church planter was with Reggie. I heard his compelling story – and then I may have let it slip out that I was kind of terrified about starting a brand-new church.
Reggie (who is Jewish) pointed to my Bible on the table. “Open it up to 1 Corinthians, Chapter 2,” Here’s what it says:
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom, but on the power of God.
I believe Reggie was most certainly sent by God.
“Paul follows the One who shines light on the system and shows us the way of love.”
The Apostle Paul understood me. He also felt fear and trembling! Here’s the thing: I understand today that the trepidation I felt is puppy fear and trembling. Puppy fear and trembling is lack of confidence or fear of failure.
Paul is talking about something entirely different. Here’s how I know: Jesus wasn’t killed for doing nice things to help people.
DAVID LOSE, IN Making Sense of the Cross writes, “Where ever Jesus went, every act of grace, every miracle, every act of healing, every time Jesus embraces someone the system has declared an outcast, he is calling the whole system into question. And they kill him for it. … That’s what happens when you call the powers that be into question.”
Paul comes in fear and trembling because he follows the One who shines light on the system and shows us the way of love. And I don’t mean puppy love. I mean costly love.
“Jesus wasn’t killed for doing nice things to help people.”
This way of being could bring you to Charlottesville, linking arms with other Jesus followers, singing “This Little Light of Mine” in the face of a line of white supremacists dressed in camouflage and carrying AK-47s. Fear and trembling.
It could bring you, with no green card (your only documents being your baptismal certificate) to live life not in the shadows, but out in the open, so that you can help start a new church in your town. Fear and trembling.
It could bring you to table with someone who’s never heard the gospel, and you get to tell them that they are beloved of God, and that their brokenness has been put to death in Christ. And you get to witness Holy Spirit ignite faith in our good, good God. Fear and trembling.
It could have you creating a strong Christian community, a school of love, where people decide to confront the system, speak the truth, and live in the way of Jesus. Fear and trembling.
This is all true. And at the very same time, the big, big message in scripture can be summed up in two words: Fear. Not. We know fear and trembling. But we also know the power of the Most High God, power shown in costly love.
Fear not, beloved. The power of Christ and him crucified is at work.