Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for Our Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies

Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for Our Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies

by Catherine McNiel
Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for Our Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies

Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for Our Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies

by Catherine McNiel


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Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. So why are so many Christians taught to fear their neighbors? The American church is known as a people who are afraid, who have been nurtured through fear into hatred, and who have moved from hatred to violence—or at least to neglect. This fear, too often lived out boldly in the name of Jesus, is a false religion.

God instructs us to welcome strangers. We are not to withhold hospitality or help from anyone in need. So why do we fear strangers, especially those needing hospitality, afraid that their presence may threaten what we have?

Jesus taught us to love our enemies. We are to pray for those who actively harm us. Instead, we create enemies in our minds, seeing anyone who thinks, believes, looks, or lives differently from us as dangerous, a threat to our way of living.

The Christian community exists to declare and demonstrate God’s love and to follow Jesus in practicing love over fear, even in unsafe times and places. It’s time to reclaim our brave fear of God and risk transformative love for the sake of our neighbors, the strangers among us, and our enemies.

We are people of the Kingdom. Fearing Bravely teaches us that we have nothing to fear. Instead, we can respond to our fear problem with a brave love that emerges from choosing to let our fear of God overcome our fear of everything else.

Catherine McNiel writes with conviction, wisely guiding us to recognize our fear and, with God's help, not let it limit us to love courageously all who are among us.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641583268
Publisher: The Navigators
Publication date: 02/08/2022
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Catherine McNiel writes about the creative and redemptive work of God in our real, ordinary lives. She is the author of Long Days of Small Things and All Shall Be Well. Catherine studies theology while caring for three kids, two jobs, and one enormous garden.

Table of Contents

Foreword xv

A Note to the Reader xix

Section 1 Don't be Afraid 1

Chapter 1 Whom Shall I Fear? 5

Chapter 2 Unsafe and Unafraid 19

Chapter 3 Fearing God 31

Brave Steps 43

Section 2 Neighbors 47

Chapter 4 Next-Door Strangers 51

Chapter 5 Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? 63

Chapter 6 Jubilee 75

Brave Steps 85

Section 3 Strangers 89

Chapter 7 Stranger Things 93

Chapter 8 Becoming Angels 107

Chapter 9 The Strange Image of God 121

Brave Steps 137

Intermission 141

Section 4 Enemies 143

Chapter 10 A Hard Teaching 147

Chapter 11 Our Nonviolent God 161

Chapter 12 Wrestling Reconciliation 173

Brave Steps 191

Acknowledgments 197

Notes 203

What People are Saying About This

Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Edwards

Can Christians be genuine peacemakers in our fragmented, polarized world? I hope so, and when I read books like Catherine McNiel’s Fearing Bravely, I am encouraged. McNiel is a wonderful storyteller, and her wisdom, honesty, and commitment to Jesus and Scripture shepherd us toward becoming better human beings. This practical and engaging book draws us to love God and love our neighbors more deeply, despite the forces that drive wedges between us. I encourage you to read this book with others so you can discern together how you might take risks to love more authentically.

Matthew Soerens

At a time when many Christians feel threatened and afraid, Catherine McNiel calls us to courage, inviting us to love our neighbors, strangers, and even enemies in countercultural ways rooted in the example of Jesus. I hope Christians everywhere will read—and heed—this wise, insightful, and challenging book, for the sake of vulnerable neighbors and, even more urgently, to reclaim the public witness of the church.

Dr. Alejandro Mandes

Catherine has lifted the rug off the elephant in the room of cultural engagement and our changing world. People are afraid—period. They try to dress it up with political, theological, or sociological arguments, but in the end, the core issue is that people are afraid of change and are struggling to hold on to the past. The solution that Catherine offers is not for us to deny the fear but to trust that God is at work, stay on mission, and then let love and justice roll. Be the change!

Rev. Dr. Emily Hunter McGowin

The repeated biblical admonition “Fear not!” strikes many of us as naive and unrealistic. With the many threats we face today, how can God possibly exhort us not to be afraid? The Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love are for long-dead saints living in easier, simpler times in ages past, right? Not so, says Catherine McNiel. In Fearing Bravely, she capably demonstrates why we can, in fact, let go of fear and choose instead the risky, cruciform way of love. She does so with the winsomeness of a storyteller, the gentleness of a pastor, and the chutzpah of a prophet. In Fearing Bravely, McNiel has given us an invaluable gift: The opportunity to confront and repent of our fear-full malformation as Christians so that we can pursue Jesus’ better way of neighbor-, stranger-, and enemy-love. I pray many will take, read, and heed the powerful message of this timely book.

Bronwyn Lea

If there’s one thing we know our world needs, it is a fresh call for Christians to actively show and share what Jesus is like by the way we love one another and the way we love our neighbors. But as Catherine McNeil shows us in Fearing Bravely, we cannot step into neighbor love and great works of justice if we do not address our deep-seated fears. With the gentle voice of a pastor and profoundly insightful engagement with Scripture, McNeil shines lights on how our culture has taught us to be overly fearful of things and people, ignorant about what it is we’re truly afraid of, and not nearly fearful (in the sense of reverence) enough. Chapter by chapter, Scripture by Scripture, and story by story, Fearing Bravely invites us to look at God, the world, and ourselves with fresh eyes, so we may both be healed by and become ambassadors of God’s perfect love, which casts out fear.

Marlena Graves

Fear, or fear of God? Whom or what do we fear, and what does that imply for our lives in a world that is not safe? How does our fear of God or fear of someone or something else influence our love for neighbors? This book is powerful, calling us to live the life Jesus intended for us, not a bland and ineffective faith or a vicious nationalistic faith mistaken for Christianity. In reading Fearing Bravely, I could not help but exclaim, “Amen!” because it is so spot-on. And I could not help but reel with conviction because of the weighty truth contained within these pages. We Americans need this book. Catherine’s thought and writing are profound and eminently applicable to our current situation. It is worthy of attentive reading and contemplation, which should naturally lead to prayerful action.

Michelle Ami Reyes

Powerful. Convicting. Encouraging. In our broken world today, Catherine McNiel’s call to live a life of active love that resists fear rings true and bold. Fearing Bravely guides us to confront the things we hate and our greatest fears, from neighbors and strangers to political realities, with the love of Jesus.

Hanibal Rodriguez

Catherine is a devoted follower of Jesus who seeks to see heaven on earth. Her commitment to the mission of God is not just theory—it is her lifestyle. Fearing Bravely: Risking Love for Our Neighbors, Strangers, and Enemies will encourage you to think and invite you to respond. You will be challenged. You will be inspired. You will be confronted. And it will be worth it. If you want to contribute to what God is already doing in this creation, I recommend you read this book.

Aubrey Sampson

This is the book author Catherine McNiel was born to write. Her words are compassionate, prophetic, and for such a time as this. For anyone who wants to love as Jesus loved, especially in the midst of our increasingly divided world, this book is a gentle guide and a tough coach all at once. With theological acumen and a sharp wit, McNiel reminds the church who we are meant to be—a people who love Jesus through the act of loving our neighbors, strangers, and enemies.

Liuan Huska

Catherine gently shepherds us out of the tunnels of fear and into the meadows of love. Her words are elegant and incisive, but—more importantly—they are generous and kind. I long to offer this book to family and community members who have for too long been guided by suspicion of the Other. It is an invitation to emerge from the trenches and break bread at God’s table together.

Joshua W. Jipp

McNiel has written a biblically sharp and practically wise book that points the way forward for how disciples of Jesus can overcome their fears in order to live lives of hospitality, friendship, and love for neighbors, friends, and family. This book is a perfect text for individuals and church groups hoping to embody the teachings and life of Jesus.

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