Remarkably, the Bible uses the term “Fear Not” 365 times – coincidence? I think not!!
As Christians, we are taught over and over again to live by faith not by fear. But what exactly does that mean and how do we apply it to the latest crisis in our world?
First off, and this is important, Christianity does not require you to leave your brain at the door! Certainly, God gave us our intellect so that we can reason – a gift no other animal in creation has. And with that reason we are to make sound, sober, prudent, and informed decisions. That is why we are given wisdom and why wisdom is so highly praised in scripture.
However, that wisdom is not to be run through the prism of the world; that wisdom is to run through the prism of our faith. If you take that idea to its logical conclusion, Christians should be responding in a very different way to the current Coronavirus pandemic than those outside the faith.
A little history is important here. During the Black Plague, everyone evacuated towns where someone was infected – social distancing at its finest! Those who were infected were left to suffer and die alone. But they weren’t alone – Christians stayed in those towns to care for the sick. And, of course, those Christians contracted the plague and died as well.
Moral of the story? As Christians we don’t fear death. In fact, we don’t fear anything!
As Americans and westerners, we are really spoiled. We have safety, security, housing, food, social safety nets, and yes, even toilet paper! In Jesus’ day, Christians were hunted down and killed or worse, captured and put into the arena with lions as sport to entertain the Romans. Christians have been jailed, tortured, torn to shreds by wild animals, crucified, burned, and beheaded. During their trials – which Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and the rest of the apostles told us would happen – what did they do? Did they “shelter in place” hiding from the world? Nope, they preached the gospel until their last breath.
There’s a book called The Foxes Book of Martyrs which details the martyrdom of hundreds of Christians. As you read this book you are struck by three thoughts.
- Just how evil people can be toward their fellow man
- The incredible faith that the martyrs had to endure the most perverse and painful tortures while refusing to renounce Jesus
- The uncomfortable thought that perhaps you could not endure such torture and would renounce your faith to stop the pain
I say all this to give perspective to what we are going through right now. Is COVID-19 serious. Of course. People are getting sick and some are even dying. So, yes, wash your hands; avoid unnecessary contact; be smart.
But Christian brother and sister: FEAR NOT!!
As Christians we don’t hoard toilet paper. We don’t hunker down like doomsday preppers. We don’t contribute to the fear mongering and panic by posting the latest hyperbole. You know what we do? We show the world what Jesus looks like!
Think about this for a moment: How courageous was Jesus?
- He called the pharisees and scribes – the most respected and highly placed people in His society – a brood of vipers
- He walked through mobs ready to stone Him
- He overturned tables in the temple challenging the authorities to stop Him
- He took the accusations, insults, mocking, and blows without opening his mouth
- He was scourged for you
- He willingly went to the cross – one of the most brutal torture methods available at the time to kill someone
Not enough for you? How about these:
- He touched lepers – no social distancing for Jesus!
- He ate with sinners risking His reputation
- He healed the lame who all had to be the dregs of that society
- He fed the hungry – again the lowest in that society
- He engaged the demon possessed and freed them
Jesus shows us the way to handle a crisis because believe me, He went through much more than you ever will.
So, what does He teach us?
- Don’t fear things of this world.
- Be smart but don’t stop serving others.
- Share the Gospel which is what people outside the faith need during times of trials.
- Be different than society – don’t bow to societal norms just because all the non-believers are doing it.
- Stay focused on God’s will not your own.
Honestly, I’ve been accused of not taking this whole coronavirus thing seriously enough. I disagree with that assessment. I just have a different perspective in life. I’ve been poor, homeless, beaten, abused, neglected, hungry, sick (yes, I’m at high risk due to health issues), unloved, hated, marginalized, bullied, abandoned, betrayed and more. None of that is happening to me right now. I’ve got it really good!! I have a wife who tolerates and loves me; I have three amazing dogs; I have a house and property (in fact I have two houses – want to buy my old one??); I have income; I have food; I have transportation; and I have my ministry for the Lord. I even have toilet paper! What else do I need?
I don’t fear getting sick and I certainly don’t fear death. Understand this, my brothers and sisters: The worst thing that can happen to us is we meet Jesus!! So, what are you afraid of?
If you are fearful, I would suggest that you are holding on to your life a little too tightly. We are told to hate this world; keep our eyes on heavenly things; die to ourselves; pick up our cross daily; and not worry about the things of this world. You must love Jesus more than your life, your family, your possessions, and really anything else! If you don’t, you’ll be overcome by the world.
So, be smart. Be safe. Be discerning. But also be brave. Show courage. Engage those in need and serve them. Share the gospel everywhere. And show people through your actions, words, and thoughts what a Christian really is – someone who fears not and trusts God’s plan and will in your life no matter what may come.
Now go wash your hands!
Rev. Tom, I am always touched by the true Face of Jesus I see in your words and actions on here. Even though we are of different sects in Christianity, you have said very little with which I can disagree (right now I can’t think of any disagreement). Neil and I have been saying we want to pop in to one of your Sunday services, so please let us know when you’re able to get back in the Pulpit. Love and hugs,