This past weekend I decided to put my membership on hold at the Pilates studio I attend. While I’d love to get back taking classes there again, I’m not comfortable doing so yet. Even with the extra safety precautions they’re taking, I’m in the high-risk age category for Covid 19, along with my husband who also has underlying health issues. In other words, I’m afraid.
The corona virus has provoked fear in many of us. Fear of becoming ill or even dying. Fear of losing a job and not having resources to live on. Fear of prolonged isolation and how it will affect our mental health.
In the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday (Matthew 10:24-39) Jesus tells his disciples three different times not to be afraid. I once heard that there are 365 instances in the Bible where we are told not to fear—a reminder for us each day of the year. Whether or not that is the exact number of times, the message is consistent. Because we trust that we are God’s beloved now and forever, what is there to be afraid of? If even the very hairs on our head are counted, and God cares for the lowly sparrow, how much more will God value and care for us?
After the twin towers of the World Trade Center came down on Sept. 11th, 2001, a huge sign was put up be the United Methodist church across the street. Printed over the image of large praying hands the sign read: “Fear is Not the Only Force at Work in the World Today.” We don’t have to deny the fact that the world can sometimes be a scary place. We only have to acknowledge that God’s perfect love is greater than our fear. We don’t have to be paralyzed by whatever we’re afraid of. We can feel the fear and act anyway.
Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid because he knows what’s coming. As he sends them out into a hostile world, they are like sheep going into the midst of wolves. They can expect conflict both from within their own families, and from without by those who will persecute them. Being a Christian does not assure us life will be smooth sailing with no problems or fears. In fact, sometimes it will only bring us more, as we take up our cross to follow Jesus.
I admit that my fears have sometimes held me back from standing up for what is right. It’s taken a long time for many of us who are white to actually say the words “Black lives matter.”
But we dare not let our fears of what others might think or what conflicts might come, keep us fulfilling the commands to love God and our neighbors as ourselves.
Is discipleship sometimes dangerous? Yes. Will we risk loss and alienation? Yes. Is God still with us? Yes. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” (Matt. 10:28).
If not even death can defeat us, what else can we possibly fear?
The more we fear (in the sense of showing reverence and awe) and love God, the less we fear everything else in life. The more we turn to God remembering what God has done for us, the more we will be able to face our fears and act with courage. As we affirm that there is indeed a force greater than fear at work in the world today.
An invitation: Take an index card and write down one fear you’re facing today. On the flip side of the card, write something that will remind you of your faith (like “perfect love casts out fear,” or “I will not fear because I am of great value to God”).
Let us pray...
Help me acknowledge my fears this day O God, trusting that you are with me, and nothing can separate me from your love. Amen.