Seeing as Valentine’s Day has come and gone in a whirlwind, my thoughts leading up to and subsequently following this holiday has led me to contemplate this emotional day.
Valentine’s day is a day where “I love you” is expected. A day where its ok to be overly emotional, and a little too gushy. Where public displays of affection leave you nauseated, or maybe that’s because of the egregious amounts of chocolate you have eaten… See, on Valentines Day it’s expected and even encouraged to confess your feelings for your loved ones, and there is usually a tremendous amount of pressure and expectation to reveal yourself. The more and more I think about Valentines Day, the more I see how this day often reflects our own walk with Christ. See on Valentines Day, we are encouraged to lay all our cards on the table, to open our hearts and declare our devotion for the one we love. To allow another person to see who we really are, to share ourselves and to become vulnerable.
However, more often than not Valentines Day remains just another ordinary day because like most days, words are left unsaid. When the opportunity arrives for us to lay our cards on the table, we panic and then we continue to rationalize our fear.
In this same way, we fear to be bold and speak up about our faith. We fear to declare our love for the Lord.
Reminiscing on my walk with Christ I have found this very much to be the case in my younger years. Going to public school for the majority of my life, I have been surrounded with peers from all walks of life. My high school was a melting pot of an assortment of cultures and convictions. I had friends who were Buddhist, friends who were Atheist, friends who were Muslim, and quite frankly friends who even made fun of me for being a Christian, all jokingly but nonetheless pointing out the fact that I was different . Teachers taught us that religion was taboo, a topic to be discussed behind closed doors and from a young age I understood that a person’s faith is something that needs to be kept secret. Looking in hindsight, I see now that my faith as a Christian was being overwhelmed by a sea of diversity and I feared revealing who I really was.
I feared the vulnerability associated with claiming that I was a Christian.
I may not know where you all are in your own faith journey, but I think that we have all come to this point in our life where we may have feared speaking up. Whether out of fear of ridicule, or rejection, or embarrassment.We fear revealing who we really are, because we want to be normal. We don’t want to be different from the rest.
Looking at 2nd Timothy Chapter 1, Paul gives us a glimpse into Timothy’s life. In this passage Paul encourages Timothy to continue his work in the church, but Timothy very much harbors a spirit of timidity. In 1st Timothy Paul even instructs Timothy on matters relating to his health, and talks about frequent bouts of illness that some speculate to be related to anxiety and worry.
But, Paul assures Timothy that there is no shame in finding his identity in Christ:
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
But most of the time, we don’t like speaking up. We’ve become meek and afraid to speak boldly because we don’t want to forfeit our safety, and maybe we have even been ashamed of our identity in Christ.
See being a Christian isn’t always easy…..most of the time it’s actually very challenging. Its a 24/7 commitment that sometimes makes it hard to relate to people. Especially in a world that tells us we can do it on our own, that we alone determine our future; its not natural for us to lay our burdens down and rely in Someone bigger than ourselves. Our society has progressed to the point where we don’t need God because we are self-reliant. But this is one of the biggest lies our society feeds us today, that we need to conform, that we need to stick with the status quo, that it is all up to us. Our society tells us, don’t say this or that because that’s not socially acceptable. Don’t talk about politics or religion because you will just make people upset.
But the one thing we as Christians often forget is that we are not here on this earth to please other people, we are here to please God alone. And that fear that so often overwhelms us that prevents us from revealing our true selves, is merely a lie.
We see this fear manifest in Peter’s life. When asked if he knew Jesus, he denied Him. He forfeited his faith when times got hard and became a lapsed Christian. He wasn’t fearless enough to step out in truth. He relinquished his faith because it was easier to follow the crowd. Because it was easier to blend in.
We all have encountered these moments. We have been hesitant to share our beliefs, we have been embarrassed, and have feared that we will be rejected. Perhaps we are scared that we are hypocrites; that if no one knows that we are a Christian then we don’t have to meet any preconceived expectations and then we won’t let anyone down.
There have been many occasions in my own life where I should have said something, where I should have defended Christ. But Words were left unsaid.
We’re not doing anyone a favor when we stifle our faith and we’re sure not doing God any favors when we’re too afraid to claim Him. God tells us that there is a time for everything. But the time where we need to step out in our faith, to be bold and radically proclaim Christ, is now. We need to claim victory over our shame and have the courage to move forward.
In Ephesians 6:19 Paul says, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should.
Even when Paul was in prison in the worst of the worst conditions, repeatedly stoned and beaten; he did not stop speaking up about his faith. He boldly professed his identity found in Christ, and during a time where you were likely to be put to death if you claimed Christ.
In Philippians Paul tells the Philippians in Ch 1 verse 20: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Similarly, in Romans 1:16 Paul says: I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.
In all of Paul’s letters, this character of boldness and fearlessness are so greatly emphasized.
Fear and faith are incompatible. We cannot dive further in our faith if we harbor this fear.
There’s beauty that is to be found when we pursue God. Our faith does make us different. God never intended for us to blend in. We were born to stand out and to stand up for our faith. We have someone who fights for us everyday, and its time we started fighting for Him.
Reminiscing on Valentine’s Day, I wanted to leave you with a thought:
What if we viewed every day like Valentine’s Day? What if we expressed not only our love for one another, but also our love for God without fear and shame, but with bravery? What if we spoke confidently to one another about what’s really on our hearts, instead of masking ourselves?
My hope is that we can all stand boldly, claiming Christ as our light, which in turn will help ours to shine that much brighter.