I John 4:18

There is no need to be afraid.

— Matthew 10:31

Courage! It’s me! Don’t be afraid.

— Matthew 14:27

Stand up, do not be afraid.

— Matthew 17:7

Do not be afraid; only have faith.

— Mark 5:36

Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

— John 14:27

Yes, that’s Jesus talking. And when he wasn’t encouraging people to be fearless, others — even his critics — were acknowledging that he himself was afraid of no one, “because human rank means nothing to you” (Mark 12:14).

If there’s one thing I’m attracted to in being a disciple of Jesus, it is that this is the path of fearlessness. By faith and by trust, we are empowered to live bathed in the consciousness of love and compassion, peace and joy.

Now, what saddens me is how so many Christians seem to be actively or passively disobeying Christ’s commandment to be not afraid. Christians are afraid of death, of terrorists, of suffering, of Democrats, of Republicans, of gay people, of crack addicts, of Jews and Muslims and New Agers and Buddhists, of secular humanists, of feminists and Wiccans and liberals, of conservative radio talk show hosts and televangelists and fundamentalists, etc. etc. etc. And yes, this list is contradictory because different Christians are afraid of different things. What I find saddest of all is when a Christian is afraid of the dark: that is to say, the “enemy” or Satan, a formless fear that usually descends into fearing things that are very real and concrete, when they are interpreted as being of the devil. And of course, the corollary to fearing all these things is to hate them. Many Christians don’t appear to be afraid, but they reveal how fearful they really are by the vehemence of their hatred.

Disclaimer: I am still learning how to live fearlessly myself. Or perhaps I should say, I’m still learning how to let God heal my fear. We all have a long way to go here. But the point behind this post is that I want to commit, this Lent and beyond, to live fearlessly in the Love of Christ. And I want that fearless love to transform me, particularly in my ability to be present with those who are different from me. Indeed, one of the lessons I have to learn is to stop fearing people who are gripped by fear.

Would you care to join me in praying for a fearless life? Just remember, nature abhors a vacuum. If you give your fear to God, be prepared to be filled with love and faith instead.

Pentecost and Ecstasy
Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
Five Approaches to InterSpirituality
In Memoriam: Kenneth Leech
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • http://themercyblog.blogspot.com MikeF

    “Would you care to join me in praying for a fearless life?”

    Yes, Carl, most definitely! This is a wonderful post, and deserveing of far greater readership than it will probably get…

    Thank you!


  • Peter




    IN LOVE.

    Love, Peter

  • http://frimmin.com/ Jon

    I’m going to trackback to this post on my blog. You’ve really hit the nail on the head!

  • judith collier

    One of the ways I have learned to dispel a lot of my fears is reminding myself of the words of a hymn ” we suffer because we do not take our cares to God in prayer” Since I tend to anxiousness from a nervous thing I have learned to take the smallest of things to God in Prayer, Watch Him as He takes care of everything, it’s miraculous! I did need this website from a spiritual standpoint as it can be scary when one doesn’t have much knowldge in the Spirit. Yes, I will pray we all know the perfect love of God. Some prayers take longer to be answered and then we must practice trusting. Practice, practice, practice. Pray,pray,pray. meditate,meditate,meditate.trust,trust,trust,focus on the magesty of God, renew the mind . It’s a lot of work sometimes. judy

  • bar

    What about the terror of Jesus in Gethsemane ?
    Fear is part and parcel of being human and if you deny its presence in yourself then you will fall into unreality,

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    I’m not denying its presence! I just believe that Christ calls us to a place where it no longer has dominion over us. The fact that Christ struggled with fear is just one more example of his humanity. But we know how the story ends. He didn’t run away from his fear, his faith and love carried him through it. And we are called to do the same.

  • judith collier

    bar, I do take caution when my instincts tell me there is a real threat of danger! Perhaps I should have said worry or fearful anticipation in the normal encounters of life. One does have to deal with one’s own constitution, mine being chronic anxiety and depression.There is more unreality here when one is experiencing these. I have learned with the help of God and good mental health knowledge,plus meditation,practicing trust,overlaying thoughts,to be classified in the normal range. understandably, judy

  • bar

    far be it from me to argue with your particular situation but I find it hard to accept that fear, anxiety etc. is ‘unreal’.
    Only too real I would have thought, though I suppose there is such a thing as exaggerated fear.
    I thought Carl’s ‘fearless life’ was going down the wrong track,

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    I stand by the Bible and by how Christ (and the New Testament in general) repeatedly call us to a courageous life: “be not afraid.” Bar, when you say a “fearless life” is going down the wrong track, would you say the same thing about a “sinless life”? We know that it is impossible to live a sinless life this side of eternity, and I suppose a fearless life is similarly outside of our reach. But that does not let us off the hook. The whole point behind sanctification is to do all we can to cooperate with God’s grace in the long slow process of reforming ourselves in the image and likeness of God. Also, the more I think about it, I think Christ’s terror and sorrow in Gethsemane have more to do with a physical/natural aversion to pain and death, than with a purely mental/emotional fear which represents a lack of faith or courage. I’m not persuaded that Christ’s terror is meant to imply that we should just accept living a fearful life.

  • bar

    yes I would say the same about a ‘sinless life’.
    I think you are on the wrong side of Semi- Pelagianism: about three-quarters Pelagianism !
    I don’t mean that we should accept a life full of fear or sin but a sinless or fearless life cannot be the goal if it is out of reach !

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    The Pelagian error would be to believe that a fearless life would be possible through my own effort — rather than by the grace of God. And if I gave you or anyone else the impression that I thought we could pull ourselves out of fear by our own bootstraps, my apologies. But the fact that something is not ours by our own design doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s desire to give it to us. “With God, nothing shall be impossible” — not even a courageous life.