Fear has become an addiction among many following the Christian faith. It has become as reflexive as breathing. We’re supposed to fear the scary Socialists who supposedly want to take our right to worship away. We’re supposed to fear the scary Muslims who supposedly want to kill us all. We’re supposed to fear the scary liberals who supposedly want to take all of our money. We’re supposed to fear the scary New World Order that’s supposed to do…something scary. We’re supposed to fear the scary immigrants who are supposedly up to something equally as scary. If it wasn’t for the fact that’s it’s still Halloween while I write this, I might not be brave enough to even face this stuff. (Sugar is great bravado fuel.)
Anyway, my inspiration for this post was this video:
I saw it while reading a Washington Post article called “People of faith just as fed up as nonbelievers,” in which the author begins:
People of faith are just as fed up as nonbelievers are with the fear mongering and demagoguery peddled by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their fellow travelers in politics. The faith community shouldn’t cede religion to them. We should take it back. Letting Beck and company position themselves as the true voices of faith in the public square would be a grave disservice to religion and democracy. So we’re standing up to them.
Now I’m not much for political movements or rallies. You might get a Facebook like out of me, but that’s about it. I agree with the premise, however, that Christians need to stop allowing political fear-mongering define their attitudes, actions, and outlooks.
Fear in God’s Word
The video points to God saying, “Al Tirah,” to His people time and again in the Old Testament. He does this over a hundred times. Some examples of God or one of His messengers telling His people not to fear include Genesis 15:1, Genesis 26:24, Genesis 50:19, Exodus 20:20, Deuteronomy 1:21, Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 8:1, Judges 6:10, I Samuel 12:20, Isaiah 41:13-14, and Daniel 10:12. The list could go on and on. Almost as consistent as the message to “Be holy as I am holy” is this theme of God’s people trusting in Him and avoiding submission to base fears.
Fast forward to the New Testament, and we see Jesus and His disciples playing a similar tune about fear.
- In Luke 12:4, Jesus says: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.”
- Luke 12:32: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
- Paul, in Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”
- II Timothy 1:7: “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
- Hebrews 13:6: “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'”
- I Peter 3:14: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.”
- I John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
- Revelation 2:10, regarding coming persecutions: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Defined By Fear or Faith?
Again, this list could go on. This is not to say we will never experience fear. Even Paul admits to being afraid at times in II Corinthians 7:5. Rather, this is about what defines us. Despite his fears, Paul still lived a Christian life. He still spread the word. He did not let fear define his attitudes, actions, and outlooks. When we succumb to the fear-mongering marketed by cable news networks, by talk radio jocks, by political figures, then we are allowing un-Christlike influences into our hearts and minds. Our minds become centered around secular concerns and we begin behaving like Christ never took us from this world at all.
What are we allowing ourselves to be frightened by anyway? Revocation of our freedom of religion? How could we possibly have it worse than those First Century Christians? If they could persevere under religious persecution, surely we could do no worse if we are truly dedicated to God. Do we fear “big government” taking our money? Since when do Christians care about their treasures on Earth? Money can’t buy salvation. Do we fear those who may kill us? Again, Jesus said not to, for they can’t claim our souls. In the vast majority of cases, what we are taught to fear centers purely around our comforts and conveniences. We fear that being a Christian might one day be hard. That true spiritual living is hard is the point of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 10:34-39.
Put even more simply, if Christ could face the cross, we can face anything this life throws at us. We don’t have to let fear rule us.
A Personal Addendum
Now I’ve been criticized of being “naive,” “shallow,” “short-sighted,” “stupid,” “ignorant,” “traitorous,” and a bunch of other things that basically amount to, “You contradict my favorite talking head,” because of this view. The argument usually descends to something like this: “Well, your mom had cancer, so you should know better than to discount small things that can lead to greater disasters,” or something like that. First, leave my mom out of this. Second, I HAD CANCER TOO, so, you know, you could go there. It would make more sense. It wouldn’t sway me (because such arguments are complete non sequiturs), but it would still almost be more compelling…if it wasn’t so non-compelling.
Cancer may have threatened my life, but it could not threaten my soul. It may have inexorably separated me from an internal organ, but it could not separate me from Christ. It may have made me physically weak, but it could not touch my strength in the Lord. Cancer may have reinforced my mortality, but it could not steal my immortality. Yes, it was difficult at the time, but my refuge in God was stronger. Likewise, no terrorist, political ideology, financial burden, or outside threat can take our hope in Christ. When we let those things insinuate themselves into our being we cease living as those with a hope in Christ, and we become no better than those who refused to enter the Promised Land because the inhabitants were big and scary.
We might be afraid at times, but we do not have to fear.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 8:37-39