Monday, April 18, 2011

When people are big and God is small #2

Last week I bought a hat. A bright red felt number with a grey and red feature on the side. I quite like it. Some people love shoes. I love trying on hats. But apart from a cap while playing sport I rarely wear a hat down the street. I have a dilemma, especially with a bright red hat. Am I wearing this to stand out from the crowd? Am I wearing this to hide under the rim? Or both at the same time? I like to think I’ve outgrown peer pressure but I think my wardrobe belies the claim.

Afraid of being exposed? Afraid of not belonging? Welch diagnoses fear of shame and rejection. Ask yourself, “Am I different at home when nobody’s watching to when I’m at church or school or work or with family and friends?” That’s fear of man. My need to be filled means I turn to people around me and turn them into idols. I give them power. They enslave me. What I fear shows where my allegiance lies.

Welch punctuates his book with personal stories and theological reflections. He also gives Biblical examples of what he means by fear of man. The stories are heart wrenching and the reflections insightful. But sometimes the manner in which he calls upon the Biblical material left me asking questions. Although he made good points I’m not sure Welch’s point was the main thrust of that Biblical passage. So I’m left wondering whether the diagnosis of fear of man in Welch’s terms fits as neatly into the Biblical categories as he would seem to argue.

Nonetheless, Welch’s reflections on the human condition are revealing. I find it easy to look for reasons outside myself to explain away or justify what I do. It’s humbling to admit that sin comes from my heart and I can’t blame anyone else or explain it away (Mark 7:20-23). Fear of man is idolatry. Calvin says, “The human heart is a factory of idols.”

God covers. God accepts. God forgives.

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