Perfect Love Casts Out Phobias: a book review

Recently I was in a gathering of Evangelical pastors. The man sitting next to me  made some comment about ‘homosexuality’ in our culture and asserted that he ‘didn’t consider homophobia a bad thing.’  I made no response. The comment stunned me. I understood what he meant. These days any sort of traditional, religious stance is labeled as homophobic by our increasingly affirming culture. He was asserting his right to have conviction and to stand up for the clear teaching of scripture. But ‘homophobia’? Really? Is this really how we want to approach the LGBT community? Doesn’t perfect love cast out phobias?

In No Fear in Love Braner exhorts us to share the good news of the gospel in ways that listen, respect, and love. Compassion not motivated by phobias. As Braner says, “It’s fear inside that tells us, I don’t want to allow anyone to think differently than I do because that may mean I need to change the way I think, or, If I validate some point they have that is contrary to my own worldview, I might have to rethink my position.” (19). This hunker-down fearful apologetic causes us to speak louder and prevents us from listening to others and responding with compassion.  Braner wants us to face up to our fears, hold on to our convictions, but to approach dialogue with non-Christians from a different space. Reflecting on John 10:10 (The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life and have it to the full) Braner asks, “Why do we always focus on the theif instead of taking ample time to focus on the full life? What if we started to see the world through a lens of abundance rather than remaining paralyzed by the things we’re most afraid of? What would it look like?” (43).

And so this book shares Braner’s journey from worldview warrior to someone who has sought to reach out to people different from him by seeking to embody the love of Jesus. The three parts of the book. The first section looks at fear: where Braner has experienced fear and his journey from fear to triumph. Part two examines where Braner has been able to minister beyond fear when his worldview clashed with others. There is a chapter about his learned hospitality to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and several chapters on his friendships with Muslims. Part three articulates ‘beyond fear’ responses to issues that often paralyze our Christian witness, issues like abortion, homosexuality and immigration.

I really appreciated the tone and the storybook feel that Braner has. Despite talking about the move from fear to love, Braner has a sense of adventure and the conversations he finds himself in and the relationships he forges, are beyond what most of us can relate to. Braner tours a Mosque in the middle east and even joins a Muslim for prayer there. His love and respectful tone strike a different note than the arrogance his interlocutors were used to, but I can’t imagine many of us finding ourselves in similar circumstances. I think I would have be served by a few more mundane examples of Christian witness. Still I liked that Braner tackled hot button issues like Christian-Muslim relations, sensitivity to women considering abortion, gracious witness to the LGBT community and a thoughtful look at immigration.

I like what this book signifies and happily recommend it. I give it four stars.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from Baker books in exchange for my honest review.

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