There are several masks fear wears, did you know that?
This is something that I was unaware of until recently. It really came to light fully this morning as I joined in with my wonderful Faith Mamas Tribe reading and discussing 2 Corinthians chapter 2. We ended up focusing mainly on the following verses – (5-11)
5If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.2 Corinthians 2:5-11 NIV
As I read along with Dominique, I wondered if this “him” Paul is talking about in these verses could possibly be the man mentioned in 1 Corinthians who was being tolerated rather than disciplined for his sinful sexual relationship with his step mother.
1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NIV
Now, we don’t see anything to tell us for sure if that is who is being referenced in 2 Corinthians, but what matters is there is someone who was being disciplined, Paul even says “punished” here, and he was repentant. Paul is calling out the church of Corinth for not now comforting him – overwhelming him with sorrow beyond what God would have.
Paul doesn’t deliniate the offence here, and I believe that is because (at least partially) the offence itself does not matter. The man’s repentance and desire to be reconciled is what matters, and the Corinthians are still being unforgiving, non-empathetic and refusing to restore him. When there is true repentance restoration and reconcilliation should take place. It is a picture of God’s grace, it IS the gospel story. Repentance, forgiveness and reconcilliation are the reason Jesus endured the cross, death, and burial. They are the entire point of his defeat of death on Easter morning.
Fear’s Masks in 1 and 2 Cor.
Ok, so where do we see fear in this passage? It’s not mentioned by name, but we can see the masks fear wears if we look into this situation.
We can see fear masked as
Fear’s Faith Mask
When I heard Dominique say “That’s not Faith, That’s Fear in a Faith costume” I locked on. This, this is what I had been doing! When we are hurt, betrayed, rejected, or abandoned by someone we love, we have a choice in how we respond.
So, what was she referring to? When we do like the Corinthians in Chapter 1 and tolerate sin. Now, we don’t think that is what we are doing, we think we are forgiving. We say we are just giving grace, being empathetic for their situation. Sometimes it’s “well, I don’t want to be too harsh” or “It’s not my place to judge”. The truth is, if we really look, that we are AFRAID of confronting the sin. It is our fear of rejection or abandonment. It could also be a fear of betrayal.
Faith does not call us to reconcile without confrontation of the offence – the sin! We can reconcile too soon (before we have fully confronted the sin, before we see fruits of repentance). When we do this, then we are putting Fear’s mask of Faith on. This response can leave us stuck in an abuse cycle.
Reconcilliation and Forgiveness
Wait, aren’t we supposed to forgive even if they don’t say they are sorry? Isn’t forgiveness about my heart and how I respond, that I choose to let go of the offence? Yes!!! The important thing here is to understand that Reconcilliation and Forgiveness are two seperate things. They do not always go hand in hand. We need to understand not only the difference, but the order in which they should occur.
I will just touch on this in a quick overview here. It can (and likely will) be a whole post or two of it’s own, at least!
Forgiveness is, according to the oxford dictionary…
to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
- stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for (an offense, flaw, or mistake).”he was not a man who found it easy to forgive and forget“
- cancel (a debt).”he proposed that their debts should be forgiven”
Reconcilliation, on the other hand is
to restore friendly relations between. i.e. “she wanted to be reconciled with her father”
- cause to coexist in harmony; make or show to be compatible.”a landscape in which inner and outer vision were reconciled”
- settle (a disagreement).”advice on how to reconcile the conflict” Similar: reunite, bring (back) together (again), restore harmony between, make peace between, resolve differences between, bring to terms, pacify, appease, placate, propitiate, mollify, conciliate, settle, resolve, patch up, sort out, smooth over, iron out, put to rights, mend, remedy, heal, cure, rectify
We can see here that Forgiveness is one sided, it can be accomplished without any responsibility from another party. It is a choice of what you are “holding on to” or not. Reconcilliation, on the other hand is all about both sides. Note words like “harmony” “compatible” and the word “between” is used multiple times. Reconcilliation requires both sides to participate in concert. With reconcilliation, repentance is necessary for it to be a true and complete thing. When we confuse forgiveness and reconcilliation we tend to jump over some very important issues. (Healing, change of behaviour, safety…)
Fear’s Righteousness Mask
In 2 Corinthians we see Fear wearing the mask of Righteousness. This is what the World usually calls “Holier than Thou”. Whether this man Paul is referring to is the same one as in 1 Corinthians or not, he is a repentant believer. He is desiring reconcilliation with his church. The Church is still holding him apart, continuing to condemn him for the sin. Paul tells them to forgive and comfort him so that he will not be overwhelmed with sorrow. He says they, at this point, need to “reaffirm their love for him”. What Fears do you see here?
Here the fear of being hurt again can be seen, as well as possibly the fear of being wrong. They could be thinking “but if we let him back, what if he does it again?” or ” If we let HIM in, who else will see that as a way to take advantage of us?”. Fear of vulnerability, a lack of being able to trust again. This church has been hurt badly, yet Paul calls them to restore the offender. We must not let our fears override our Hope and project a “Righteous” veneer over our lack of compassion for the repentant.
More Masks Fear wears and why
Fear can also look like control, defensiveness, rebellion….
Fear results from pain, but it can also come from anxiety. We learned the difference between these two at the Raising Kids on Your Knees retreat. Jaimie Bailey spoke about the fact that Fear is an emotional response to a real threat – designed to protect us. Anxiety is an emotional response to an unknown or perceived threat. Anxiety is a misuse of the Fight, Flight or Freeze response God gave us as a protection – to keep us alive.
When we learn to trust our Father with the pain that comes in life we teach our brain to recognize his comfort when we experience pain. We are able to let go of the fear when we know we can run to our father for protection. If we continually respond to pain with unrelieved fear we move from life saving fear to paralyzing anxiety.
When we experience trauma, our brain locks in the memory and creates hyper-awareness which can become anxiety if we do not work through it and learn to heal correctly from it. Again, running to our Father knowing he will protect us. When we continually have anxiety we become those hurt people who hurt other people and continue the cycle.
Recognize the masks Fear wears
As you go through your day you are going to be confronted with hard things. Pain will inevitiably be somewhere in this life. Learn to recognize the difference between fear and anxiety, between forgiveness and reconcilliation and don’t let Fear’s masks fool you into staying in the cycle. Find Hope, remember your Heavenly Father is there to comfort and protect you if you will run to him. Look for Joy in the midst of all the hard, the trauma and the people doing you wrong – it is there, always.
I pray for each of us that we will run to our Father, walk in Hope and Joy and cast out Fear – in all it’s masks – so we can show the Love of Christ to those closest to us and those we encounter as we go through our day. May the Lord richly bless and keep you – my beautifully spun yarns of God.