I’ve had a number of conversations and thoughts about fear this week.
There are elections going on in different parts of the country, and some of the campaign ads seem to focus on fear – fear of the unknown, fear of other groups of people, fear of other candidates or parties.
I’ve also been looking at some of the information about the current situation in the United Methodist Church as a denomination, and the people and churches who are considering leaving the denomination to join a new group called the Global Methodist Church. Some people are saying fearful things about how one group will change after the split, or how the other group will operate differently after the split.
We have other social issues that seem to be driven by fear as well. Guns, drugs, inflation, abortion, teaching in schools. One side often stokes fears of the other side, and vice versa.
Then there is the fear that is more individual. Fear of cancer or unemployment. Fear of the difficult decisions needed when caring for loved ones who have dementia or terminal illnesses. Fear of covid or other infectious diseases.
Fear seems to be all around us.
Fear can be real.
Where does our faith connect with our fear?
1 John 4:18 - Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
I share this passage not to shame anyone by saying that if you are experiencing fear, then you don’t have a strong enough love for God to expel our fear. But I think we often forget that God knows about our fears, and God offers a perfect love that can overcome our fears. In the past, we called this a “blessed assurance” that Jesus was ours – that Jesus has victory over our fears.
For another take on fear, let’s turn to Exodus, and the time when the Hebrew people were in Egypt.
Exodus 1:17 - But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.
Shiprah and Puah were Hebrew midwives who, by law, had to kill all the boy babies at birth so the Hebrews would stop growing in population while they were slaves in Egypt. They feared God more than Pharoah, so they figured out ways to let the boy babies live, including the child who became the great leader Moses.
Their “fear” of God was more along the lines of awe and reverence – they believed God’s power was greater than that of Pharoah’s, so they followed God’s plan and subverted Pharoah’s.
What about the fear we feel? Is it often more about being afraid, and our feelings, and less about authority and reverence? Do we believe God is above our fear – and above the details of the situations that we are fearful of – and are we willing to put our trust in God and limit our focus on the feeling of fear?
I wonder if our fear feeling drives some of decisions more than our trust in God’s authority and power.
If we do not trust in God’s salvation, do we fear that the choices of the people around us might affect our own salvation? Do we want to control other people’s choices because we fear losing our own salvation?
If they can’t choose salvation for us, then they also can’t choose damnation for us.
We each get the opportunity to turn toward God and receive God’s grace and salvation. We also get to reject God’s gift of saving grace. My choice does not affect my neighbor’s salvation, and their choice doesn’t affect mine.
Sin isn’t contagious. Sin might be tempting, but we can each make our own decisions.
Sometimes we are tempted to help God with judgment, and let people know they are going to hell for their choices. Perhaps this comes from our own fear of judgment and where we will end up in the after-life. We don’t need to control others in order to win our own salvation. Jesus took care of all that for us.
There are a couple of stories about Jesus and the disciples and storms on the water while they are in boats. Jesus calms them, saying, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here!"
Take courage. Jesus is here.
We can be kind to the people around us who are experiencing fear.
We can take deep breaths and release our fear to Jesus.
We can take courage, and rest in the blessed assurance that God is with us, and God’s love is greater than our fear, that God’s perfect love expels our fears. We can reach out to those around us and be channels of God’s love and grace to those around us who do not yet have the blessed assurance of God’s saving grace.
What if we said a prayer for each group that has a fearful election ad running?
What if we said a prayer for each person who judges another out of fear and anxiety?
What if we give our fears to God in exchange for perfect love?
What would the next week of our lives look like if we were filled with these prayers?
Click below for a video version of this week's post.