Our culture is full of fear. Ours must be one of the most frightened societies in history.
Our fears are dramatized for us on the evening news, exaggerated so that single events appear as nation-wide disasters, so that one person’s tragedy becomes a likely outcome for any one of us — at any moment!
People seem to love being scared. So much so that we’d rather be frightened than informed. Facts are replaced with a new form of superstition — one that has a turban-wearing terrorist lurking behind every dark doorway, just waiting to snatch up our children. Never mind that the odds of being attacked by a terrorist in North America are less than the odds of being struck by lightning — perhaps that only goes to show just how risky it is to even go outside at all!
On a few occasions this fear of the unknown — a fear that would be comical if it wasn’t so debilitating — has evidenced itself around me as a complete dread of anything outside a person’s comfort zone. This term “comfort zone” used to refer to the norms of life in which someone was comfortable. Now it might best be called the “safe zone.” Because anything remotely outside it leads to paralyzing terror.
And its not just places or people groups that scare us these days. We’re scared of economic collapse, we’re scared of nuclear weapons, we’re scared of viral outbreaks. We have more to be scared about these days than we do to be hopeful about.
Its no wonder then, that God’s kids aren’t getting out into the world to help people. We’re all inside our homes, quaking in our boots that those prisoners getting released from Gitmo might be right outside our door just waiting to steal our jobs blow up our buildings!
With summer time comes opportunities for short term missions trips. Our church is planning a couple of them, and they’re all great opportunities to tangibly act out God’s love for the rest of the world. But there are those who won’t pursue these opportunities out of fear. There are those who’s only knowledge of the world at large comes from the shocking news stories they see on TV. Those who believe that the gospel is best served by staying around home, and helping out their local church where they’re safe and sound and never have to risk anything. Those who have chosen to ignore the New Testament mandate to “Go ye into ALL the world.”
The Bible actually has a lot to say about fear, and some good stuff to say specifically about the fear of those who believe differently than us.
Matthew 10:26-31 says: So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows
Paul the Apostle spent a total of at least 7 years in jail, was flogged repeatedly, shipwrecked and travelled the known world without the aid of a motorized vehicle. Fear never slowed him down. Uncertainty about where he would sleep, or what he would eat never caused him to make permanent camp where he was safe. And the thought of being a little uncomfortable didn’t shut him up about the news he had to share.
So why are we, in the richest nations in the world, with the most resources available to us, the timid ones?
Why are Chinese missionaries, coming from underground churches in a country where their government might imprison or kill them for what they believe, reaching Muslim nations more effectively than we are?
Why do our churches need hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for their buildings and programs, when a pastor in India needs only a Bible and a bicycle to change his world?
Why do we need guarantees of safety and provision before we’ll even think of setting out for a foreign country, when there are people doing ministry in malaria-ridden jungles just hoping their line-of-sight Internet holds out long enough to send out this week’s prayer letter?
Is it because we have forgotten both God’s command to go, and His promise of provision and protection within His amazing plan for each of us? Is it because we have forgotten what it means to be a Christian? To have such a message of love burning within us with so much passion that if we are silent the stones will cry out?
Christ died a most horrific death on the cross for each of us, yet somehow we are unwilling to risk a little traveller’s diarrhea, or soldier through a little jet lag, to go to a country where our every need isn’t already met for us, so we can share the message that saved us.
There is a fear that is healthy. A fear that the grace of the New Convenant may have caused us to forget. A fear of a most awesomely Holy God, who has commanded His people to go and to make disciples.
This Easter, if you are hiding from those commands out of fear of people or places or things that make you uncomfortable or unsure, imagine the fear Jesus must have felt on the cross, the wrath of His All-Powerful Father for the sins of the world poured out on His broken body, and remember that He faced that fear for you.
And He claimed victory on your behalf. He’s already won. Through Christ, we have defeated death. Instead of acting like frightened, conquered people, we should go boldly and share His love and freedom like victors…