With suicide bombings that seem to happen anywhere anytime, and mass murderers who attack even in places and on occasions that we always thought were safe, it is no surprise that people are afraid. Some people are even being taught to fear physically their own government. The response in some American environments is to buy and carry guns for security—even in churches.
I don’t want to argue about whether having a gun makes one safer, but rather to point out that for Christians security rests in God alone. And that security doesn’t mean that we and those we love won’t be killed or taken down at a young age by a terminal illness. And it doesn’t mean that if we are true believers we will prosper. The security comes in living as a beloved child of God.
In the Bible a message from God very often begins, “Do not be afraid.” To the exiled people of Israel living under Babylonian rule God says, “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God.” When the angel Gabriel comes to Mary with his life-changing news that she is to conceive and give birth to a child she is to name Jesus, he says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
After the tragic racist-motivated shooting of Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and eight members of his congregation, it would be easy to imagine that church succumbing to fear and a desire for vengeance. But no—on their website, in Ninety Seconds That Changed the World one reads, “Our mission is still hope.” The AME Church arose out of a social justice protest—against Methodist churches that gave whites priority at the prayer rails. Racism is nothing new to the people of that denomination. Emanuel AME’s response to the attack on them: “We know we live in a violent and sinful world. . . Our faith must be stronger than our fear.”
How can your faith be stronger than fear?
There is a lack of fear that is foolishness and a fear that enslaves us. What does God’s “fear not” mean?
Relax and let go your racing thoughts until you can focus on something that makes you afraid. Stay with that in your imagination until you can get a felt sense of the fear. Where is it in your body? What does it want you to notice or know? Holding it in the Light of Christ, where is there fresh air?
For further reference:
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (See Psalm 27).