Fear is wisdom and this is the kind of fear that shows reverence to God and trusts in him. I love Proverbs 8 below that explains fear and wisdom. We should not be driven to fear in order to accomplish Christ. Christ didn't die so we could come to him like a dog that has been beaten into submission. Christ died so we could find true love in Him and want a better story for our lives.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging
- 1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
But some have begun to treat our worship assemblies as if they are some special club that only members can attend and in order to be a member in good standing you must be sinless. Exaggeration? maybe, but not too far off. And here is what happens in that kind of environment. Greeters feel like bouncers. Members seem fake or forced and suspicious. Elders become security guards. Preachers become bosses who cannot be pleased or the "sinless" one's self-help guru. And the guests/visitors who are looking for Jesus do not return. Because those looking for Jesus come to Him as they are...and let's face it that isn't the perfect. Of course if this type of church has done its due diligence (via website, media, word-of-mouth), guests won't ever be an issue.
The church should be a place of refuge for those who have been exiled by their own society. It should be accepting for all of those break our Christian norms and mores. It should be willing to open its arms even to those who run against God and His word.
The church should also be a place where those who believe and follow the way of Jesus can come to find rest, worship, celebrate, and deepen their discipleship. The church should be a place of encouragement for those who are already following Jesus. The church should be a place where we come in need of encouragement, lament, or celebration and we respond to God with worship. The church should be a place where we can continue our study of scripture, build relationships with God and with one another, and invest in studying and acting out true following of Christ....discipleship.
The church should evangelize (spread good news) by speaking to those who are in need of a better story with grace, mercy, compassion, and love. There is no need to condemn those living an openly public life of sin. You could never draw a bee by swatting at it. All it will do is attack and sting. But hold a flower and welcome that bee and it will come in peace. While we shouldn't welcome the atheist, the prostitute, the pornographer, the murderer, the greedy, the homosexual, or the burdened just so they can be our personal "Religious Makeover Contestant", we should be willing to extend love through conversation, non-judgmental friendship, food if they are hungry, and shelter if they are homeless, and justice for those wrongly treated. We build relationships simply for the sake of building a relationship, just like Jesus did with tax collectors and sinners. And unfortunately, because this is rare for a Christian to do, they will be compelled to Jesus because of your love and genuineness.
The time to teach how to behave as a Christian is once someone has proclaimed to be one and wants to follow God's way. The letters of Paul, that we love to quote against those sinners out in the world, are written to people who were in church. A church that was most-likely set up by Paul and attended by people who professed to be Jesus followers. When we claim to be the righteous, the royal priesthood, the members of THE WAY, then God is calling us to something more. Jesus invites all to God and the Holy Spirit will begin to convict us of the ways in which we should follow. So for those who stand on the corner and yell into their bullhorn and point their finger, lay down your self-righteous indignation and take those three fingers pointing back at you and share the message of reconciliation with your church. Reconcile yourselves back to God through behavior that makes him rejoice and use the love and grace that God has given you as inspiration for how to treat the world.
The world is watching God's people and in many ways are left wanting. God doesn't disappoint, so we should share a message that doesn't disappoint either.
It is time to go against the grain and not simply shout what we are against, but lovingly welcome EVERYONE to THE ONE who went against the Grain so that we might ALL be saved!
We want to present the TRUTH to the church and to the world (general term for those not Christian).
TRUTH is not only the sin that so easily entangles.
TRUTH is also the grace and love that breaks down the walls of hostility and reconciles ALL to God the Father of ALL, to Jesus the Savior of ALL, And to the Holy Spirit the Counselor for ALL.