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Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love

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In this no non-sense book, reliable spiritual guide, Will Willimon, invites readers to consider the gospel command to love (and not merely tolerate) those considered to be “Other” or outside mainstream Christian culture. Rooted in the faith of Israel and the Christian story and vision, Willimon brings a Wesleyan perspective to bear on what may be the hardest thing for people of faith to keeping and loving the "Other" as they are - without any need for them to become like us.

Emphasizing biblical teaching to receive Others for who they are and their differences as gifts and mysteries bearing the grace of God, Willimon also offers a strong critique of the privileged who all too often rush to speak of reconciliation and evade the injustice of huge inequalities faced by foreigners and strangers - as well as the antagonism the stranger experiences. He identifies concrete, everyday ways persons are formed in welcoming others without annihilating their differences.

Rooted in the New Testament understanding of Gentile outsiders grafted into the covenant community, Willimon invites readers to an on-the-ground faith that remembers the God who comes to us again and again through so-called outsiders, strangers, immigrants, and those without status. Beyond welcome, Christians must become “other” to the world, shaking off the dominant culture’s identity and privilege through practices of listening, humility, and understanding.

“I love Will Willimon, and I love this book. Will writes with prophetic sarcasm, a touch of humor, plenty of self-effacement, and a pastor’s heart. And his words will make you laugh, cringe, cry, confess, and repent. This is a very timely book. I urge you, prospective reader, as you read this blurb on the back buy and read it! You’ll be grateful you did.” —Adam Hamilton, senior pastor, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS; author of Half Truths

“This gutsy, biblically rich, theologically searing book by Willimon gigs everybody’s sacred cow. Not only is the one whom Christ loves Other but God is Other. The ground beneath us shakes the walls that divide us. If you are holed-up happy with people who look like you, don’t read this thing. It will screw up your world.” —Tex Sample, Robert B. and Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society, Saint Paul School of Theology, Leawood, KS

“Timely and prophetic, Willimon’s call to love the Other will quickly take hold of your soul, changing your preaching and your life. This book is not just a reminder of our Christian calling to welcome the Other but a call to conversion, a new way of seeing the neighbor and a new way of being in the world God desperately loves.” —Karoline M. Lewis, Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

“Bishop Willimon’s new book should come with a Do not read unless you are ready to be changed and want to change the world!” —O. Wesley Allen Jr., Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

Now with a New Introduction!

112 pages, Paperback

Published April 5, 2016

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About the author

William H. Willimon

165 books46 followers
The Reverend Dr. William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at the Divinity School, Duke University. He served eight years as Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, where he led the 157,000 Methodists and 792 pastors in North Alabama. For twenty years prior to the episcopacy, he was Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Christian Ministry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 40 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Fike.
28 reviews
September 16, 2016
Although this is a short book (91 pages), it is challenging read for the conscientious follower of Jesus. Do not read if you are comfortable in your understandings of "others," and do not want to be shaken up. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for T. Randall.
2 reviews
August 24, 2016
A new challenge from Willimon

Bishop Willimon has a reputation among his fans and non-fans for being a Wesleyan curmudgeon, if not a tad sarcastic curmudgeon. That is once more the case in his newest book, Fear Of The Other. Of course, it's that curmudgeonly approach that draws you to his writing - the reader knows that he/she will be irked and/or pricked by something he says. He thanks Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and Sen. Ted Cruz for providing the rationale for writing this book. Already with the sarcasm/irony! In this short book, the Bishop, now retired, and back teaching at Duke Divinity School, enters into the conversation (?!?) about the impact of fear, especially of those most unlike me (I'm white, protestant, 65+), is driving American culture in 2016. Over against that driver of our culture, Willimon sets the message of Jesus of Nazareth, the one Christians call Savior and Lord, the consummate Stranger, or Other. Jesus, Willimon asserts (rightly, I think), calls us to love , embrace, those who are other than we. That's because Jesus shows us that God embraces and loves those who are most unlike God - us. And then issues orders to Christians to go and do likewise. - love the Other, even especially the Other. This is a timely reminder to Christians that our Lord's first words to his fearful disciples, "Don't be afraid!" are a summons to live unafraid of anything or anyone save disappointing God. With questions after each chapter for group discussion, this short volume would be an excellent small group or Sunday School study between now and Election Day 2016. But be prepared to be irritated, challenged, made uncomfortable, chastened. It's what Bishop Willimon does best. And I'm grateful.
32 reviews
February 16, 2017
Beautifully written, succinct, valuable in the conversation on race.
Profile Image for Terrell Clemmons.
8 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2018
This book is a heavy political diatribe that essentially assumes anyone who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, whether or not they realize it.

Willimon prioritizes politics over faithfulness to Scripture, and in some places flatly controverts Scripture.

Pass on this one, unless you're a geek like me who reads books you disagree with in order to draw out what's wrong with them.
Profile Image for Marilyn.
698 reviews13 followers
February 4, 2021
Most certainly, not everyone will agree on the premise of this book. However, everyone should thoughtfully consider the points Willimon has to make. Timely advice for sure in an age that is so filled with fear and hate.
Profile Image for Gloria.
946 reviews4 followers
July 21, 2019
I'd never heard of this author before, and wanted to see what he was saying as part of the church I attend's book study (they have a Bible study as well).

The book seems to pull a lot from the parable of the Good Samaritan, as that parable has a Jew being saved by the Other, whom he hated.
There's also learning to fear like Christians - learning to recognize the knee-jerk reaction of fear and then deciding whether or not it is warranted.
Learning to love the other in church, because in churches there is diversity of the Other.
And most important, Jesus as God is Other.

Because it's not just fear of the Other that keeps us in our own societies, it's also learned fear-based behavior from society and from personal experiences. Willimon gives an example of a woman who was assaulted by another and then feared others of that race. She asked if God could give her freedom from that fear and Willimon was happy to say "yes".

Fear of the other will keep us isolated. It will insulate us from hearing anything that we don't already agree with. It will keep us alone.
The Bible states that "there is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out fear."
Love will connect people. It will connect us.
Love will allow us to hear things we do not agree with and hear how our position may be hurting the Other.
Love will place us where we need to be in community; but it will not force us.

About the only thing I didn't like about the book was a slight disparagement about choosing to follow God on one's own. I know the Methodist church has a focus on consensus, and that requires a bit of communication with other people, but sometimes being a hermit or hermit-ess is a good thing.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
193 reviews9 followers
January 29, 2017
In presenting our church with sisters and brothers whom we fear as the Other, God is not only testing us but giving us a gracious opportunity to recover the adventure of discipleship.

Love of neighbor validates that we are loving the true and living God rather some godlet of our own concoction.

“For God so loved the world…” It all belongs to God. No one is foreign to this expansive embrace. There may be people who are strangers to me; they are not strangers to God. There may be those who are enemies of me or my country; they are not enemies of God.

Maybe it’s good to be reminded that there was a time when folks feared Jesus more than the Other.

It is the nature of the body of Christ that locked doors are ultimately more costly to the survival of the church than open doors. There is a high price to be paid for fearing the threat of the Other more than we fear disappointing Jesus.

“Fear expects punishment. In deep fear of the Other we separate ourselves from others in order to better oppress, exploit, confine, hurt, or deny justice and access to others whom we have judged to be so Other as to be beyond the bounds of having any bond between us or any claim upon us.”

Knowledge of the truth about the world renders the world less fearful and more bearable.

The adrenaline that is pumped into our nervous system to help protect us from a perceived threat makes us feel more confident in our judgments when in fact our ability to make good decisions is considerably reduced by fear.

Clear thinking and accurate judgment are needed in order to distinguish a frightened, innocent, suffering Syrian refugee from a hate-filled, murderous Syrian jihadist. And yet our fear drives us to make unsubstantiated generalizations like, “All Syrians are…” thus foolishly lumping all Syrians together and failing to make proper distinctions.

Reappraisal, the act of pulling the Other toward you rather than pushing the Other away, creates a neuro-chemical change that helps us think more clearly and act more confidently.

Our problem, in regard to fear, is that we fear the Other more than we fear the God who commands, “Love each other.”

A fellow preacher comments, “Now I know how Muslim brothers and sisters must feel when they hear their beloved Islam reconfigured by hate-filled jihadists.” After the head of a allegedly Christian school, Jerry Falwell Jr. bragged during convocation about his concealed handgun and urged all the students at his college to arm themselves.

It’s hard to know which is worse; our active hatred of the Other, our negative lumping and labeling of others (“lazy, vermin, dirty”), or our indifference to others, our utterly unchristian apathy that fails to hear the command that Christ has laid upon us, that refuses to assume any responsibility toward the Other.

You can’t have a one-sided embrace.

We must affirm that vengeance is up to God, not us. Making history turn out right is God’s self-assignment, not ours.

Faith in God’s ultimate establishment of peace with justice is necessary if there is to be hope for a world of love and humility in our own judgments against the Other.

Every time we miraculously move from exclusion to embrace, it’s a little earthly experience of what one day we shall do forever.

Christians ought to be better at building bridges than erecting walls against those we have injured as well as to those who have injured us.

That America has the largest military defense budget of any country in the world suggests that our defensiveness is costly. That we have more people in jail than any other country in the world is a great irony – or perhaps a great sin – in this self-proclaimed freest of all nations.

We want those of other faiths or no faith to respect our genuine differences, as we attempt to the same for them.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

There is hard, demanding work to be done against injustice. We must face facts without being paralyzed by them. People are afflicted when powerful people feel dis-empowerment by the Other. Racism is more than fear of the Other, but surely fear of the Other is driven in part by our racism.

Love of God and keeping the command to love is a way of overcoming the world, of rising up and taking action against the ways of the world. Christ has freed us to do what our culture finds difficult: to be bound to each other, bound even to the Other.

Believing that there is only one God encourages us in encounters with even the most hostile Other to consider the prophetic possibility that God is moving toward us in the Other. The Other may be regarded by us as Other, but is never an Other to God. The Other may be an enemy to the United States, but God is not an enemy to the Other. The Other may hate us or God, but God loves the Other.

Along comes God who blurs our boundaries by making “the sun rise on both the evil and on the good” and sending “rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Mission is the name for when the Christian goes to, listens to, presents the gospel to, dares to serve, and risks being changed by the Other. Mission denotes that Christ expects more than “invite” and “welcome,” more even than “hospitality” to the Other, certainly more than humbly “being with” the Other. We are commissioned to the active, searching, seeking, embracing love of the Other.

Hope for the Other (or for us in our fearfulness) is that Christ’s risky, determined love is strong enough to defeat our fear. Thanks be to God!
Profile Image for Nicholas.
20 reviews
January 20, 2018
An indispensable aid to remove the log out of one's eye. Willamon states that one of the "goals of Christian preaching is to render the listener as other." This is done in an attempt to move the hearer towards a posture of not just hospitality but empathetic action. Such action is to be done on an individual level for sure, nevertheless, chapter four provides some very creative ideas to seed such action in the soil of community.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
206 reviews
February 17, 2017
I had to read this book for a small group discussion. If not for them, I wouldn't have read passed Ch. 1. While I appreciated the challenge presented, I felt the book was not well-written. I do feel I will be more sensitive toward those different from me. This really is Willimon's goal.
Author 1 book2 followers
March 24, 2018
This book challenges us to think about how we see the Other and how Jesus would handle the situation. I wrestle with some of what Bishop Willimon wrote as living the way Jesus would want us to is a challenge. Definitely a must read for people who want to grow in their Christian walk.
118 reviews1 follower
January 8, 2019
Having read Bishop Willimon's "Why I am a United Methodist" I was familar with his writing style. This was a quick read but well worth it. I found the analysis on how we react to "the other" and how Christ showed us to act to be excellent. I think I will be quoting this book in future sermons.
Profile Image for Adam Wickliffe.
15 reviews
August 3, 2020
A relevant read in these trying times, the "other" in Biblical times was just as ostracized as the "other" is feared today. Willimon shows that love conquers hate and overcomes those who want us to see "others" as undesirables in our society.
242 reviews4 followers
August 1, 2017
Will Wiilmon always makes me think and helps me see in new ways. I don't always appreciate what God is saying through him, but thank God he says it!
Profile Image for Lisa Lewton.
Author 1 book7 followers
October 2, 2017
Our council read and discussed this book at the start of meetings. It was a good springboard for discussion. I’m glad we read it.
46 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2017
Enjoying the discussions my Sunday School group is having about this book. Thoughtful and challenging.
Profile Image for Janis Edwards.
138 reviews
March 7, 2018
Very short, easy reading, but very thought provoking. Some very powerful self exploration.
25 reviews
June 17, 2019
Difficult read, found I had to frequently reread portions to understand what author is saying. Book group read resulted in interesting group discussions.
511 reviews
August 28, 2022
This book definitely makes you think and challenges you with scripture to decide who is the “Other” per the Bible. I actually would’ve liked to have seen this be a longer book.
Profile Image for Lulu Cares.
90 reviews
January 5, 2023
Hard to read. Hard to follow what exactly the author is trying to get across.
I felt it just missed the mark.
Profile Image for Alice Yoder.
523 reviews3 followers
October 10, 2019
Although an introvert at heart, I have learned to extend myself in certain circumstances, therefore, there are very, very few "others" that I encounter. We studied this book in Bible Study, and I used the metaphor of "opening the door to different circumstances and situations".

Be open to the possibility of a relationship with "others".
Profile Image for Cathy Sweeney.
51 reviews6 followers
June 7, 2016
Writing from the perspective of a culture of fear - 'fear speak' heard from media, politicians, and others - retired UMC Bishop and professor of Christian practice at Duke Divinity School, Willimon uses practical examples of how fear comes into our lives, and how we react to that fear.

The book is short (106 pages, including the introduction), but contains many examples for the Christian to understand how our faith in Jesus Christ helps us to combat our fears, and rely on Him. The fear specifically addressed is the fear of 'Other.' How do we overcome a fear of those who are different - raised in a different culture, faith tradition, or worse - fear of those who hate? Willimon relies not just on biblical examples, but also includes scientific reasoning for our fears in a discussion of the neurobiology of Xnophobia.

Complete with discussion questions at the end of each chapter, this book would be a good 4-6 week study session for a small group or Sunday morning class. Many of the bible passages and stories (Good Samaritan) could be a lesson itself.

Notable passages from the book:

"When we speak of 'God,' we are not merely projecting our grandest notions and deepest desires and calling that imaginary configuration 'God.' When we say 'God,' we are not indicating some being who resembles us and our values, only much,much nicer. God is 'Other.' When we are talking about and attempting to listen to God, we are not simply expressing some of our personal notions about deity. We are in conversation with one who is Other; a stranger is in dialogue with us, interacting with us, revealing to us without lessening the sheer otherness." -p. 17

"Our problem is not that we fear; it's that our fear is often misplaced and that we sometimes fear excessively." - p.27

[Quoting Miroslav Volf]: "We have been given a choice, God has blessed us with agency, to each of us Jesus has said, "Follow me!" - p.31

"We have our job to do, in striving for justice, in listening to and understanding the testimony of the victim, in loving the Other who is the perpetrator enough not to lie about the Other's injustice. At the same time, we must affirm that vengeance is up to God, not us. Making history turn out right is God's self-assignment, not ours." -p.47

"Christ has freed us to do what our culture finds difficult: to be bound to each other, bound even to the Other. To risk embrace, to dare to take responsibility for each other, can be the defiant act that arises the church out of our inclination to sappy sentimentality or middle-class mediocrity." -p.56

"Jesus's peculiar approach to prayer was not to urge us to compile a list of all our sick friends and family but rather to 'pray for your enemies'." "But church is not where we get what we want out of God; church is God's means for getting what God wants out of US." - p 61-62

"The Other may be regarded by us as Other, but is never an Other to God." - p 64

[While expanding on the Good Samaritan]: "But the story is not about to whom are WE to be neighbors. It's about who is a neighbor to US. Who is that Other coming toward me, the scary Other whom I fear who just might save me if I were to risk embrace?" - p.89

Profile Image for brightredglow.
434 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2017
This is actually a re-read. I read it originally for a book review in 2016. Given the volatility of late in society especially towards the 'other', I decided to read it again. It is still a wonderful, clear eyed missive. It doesn't even crack 100 pages but it is full of wisdom, thoughtfulness and usable advice.
39 reviews2 followers
November 14, 2016
Will We Love or Fear Others?

“Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love” is one of the finest Christian books published in 2016 if not the finest in the 21st century. Only 90 pages long, “Fear of the Other” is a powerful read that challenges from cover to cover, shakes up our orthodoxy, and forces us to look at common Biblical passages in a fresh way.
The book is based on the core Christian truth that we should love one anOther. Willimon discusses why we fear the Other instead of loving all Others, and tells why we truly should love all Others. The Other can be anyone – Arabs, Syrians, Mexicans, East Indians, African Americans, Caucasians, homeless, criminals, etc., -- and people of faiths other than Christian.
The author, William H. Willimon, is a theologian and bishop in the United Methodist Church who serves as professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School.
Willimon begins with a very powerful illustration that will change forever your understanding of the well-known verse from Romans 5:8 that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” The illustration reminds readers of how truly evil all of us were in the eyes of God when we were sinners.
An example of the author’s writings: “The problem is not that we fear; it’s that our fear is often misplaced and that we sometimes fear excessively. Too much fear is the problem as we allow our lives to be dominated by the avoidance of evil rather than the pursuit of good.”
The author reminds us that God does not love America over all other nations. He says to love our neighbors and love our enemies and to pray for our enemies. Our churches are to be a haven for Others with its members functioning Samaritans helping those who need healing and as agents of hospitality to the lost sheep(s).
Willimon concludes that: “In your church and mine, by the grace of God, we are being given neighbors we wouldn’t have known without Jesus and a Savior who is determined to bring all things together, even us.”
You can read this in one setting and will be thinking about its content for several days. As Christians we need to have our comfortable thoughts shaken and we certainly need to rethink how we love one another. Thank you William H. Willimon.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
138 reviews4 followers
February 21, 2017
Good discussion starter. Timely. But I do feel that I am the choir he is preaching to.
72 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2017
I remember how much I loved Resident Aliens the first time I read it. And how much I have referred back to it over the years. From William Willimon, half of the Resident Aliens team, comes Fear of the Other. It's a brief work, but it is dynamite. It is absolutely on point in our world right now. It is provocative, challenging and encouraging. It shows how irrelevant we may allow our faith to become and how very relevant our faith may be. It is not a collection of comfortable musings, it is a challenge to follow Jesus and to be the church. I love this book.
Profile Image for Julia.
146 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2017
I read this in order to prep for my sermon on loving our enemies. I wish I could just read the whole book from the pulpit. It's an important read for Christians, especially now.
Profile Image for Jason Stanley.
188 reviews2 followers
December 29, 2016
True to form, Bishop Willimon approaches theological themes in a no-nonsense and gutsy matter. This little book (less than 100 pages) is the Bishop’s response to the rhetoric of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. “If not for them,” Willimon writes, “I would not have been asked to write this book.”

Willimon shows no fear in addressing current social topics. He covers it all. The desire for a bigger wall across the border to keep out Hispanics. The call to keep Muslims out of the country. The exclusion of LGBT individuals in the life of the church. And, he even takes on Jerry Falwell, Jr.

All of this very relevant issues is perhaps one reason why this little book is so little. It is a wonder that this book was written, edited, and published in the short amount of time that it must have been done in. If you are an avid reader of Bishop Willimon, you may have read a few of these stories, or thoughts, before. Even, so, this little book is worth your time.

Read more at http://jasoncstanley.com/book-review-...
168 reviews
February 13, 2018
This powerful little book speaks to the heart of the fear that hinders us from embracing "the other." Spoiler alert: in the last chapter, Willimon drops a bombshell -- Jesus is "the other." The only way to truly meet Jesus is to seek him in the humans who seem most different to us. And the same fear that hold us back from welcoming other humans into our hearts restrains and paralyzes us from opening the door to God's knocking. Thank you, Jesus, for your perfect love that casts out fear.

Fear of the Other should be required reading for everyone calling themselves “Christian.” Willimon explores the biological source of fear, then moves to the irrational fear of anyone we perceive as The Other. What a surprise when the author helps us realize that God Himself is The Other, and that when we ignore The Other, we ignore Him -- at our own risk – and loss. Willimon moves the reader from fear of The Other, to wanting The Other, to needing The Other. A brilliant, convicting book. Don’t read it unless you’re ready to be changed.
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