Courage in an Era of Fear
Part 1: Terrorism
A persecution complex saturates our culture. Every time I turn around it seems as though another drama airs that portrays some sinister and evil plot designed to destroy the earth and mankind with, well, just about everything. The entertainment industry encourages us to believe there is always a “savior” for every crisis, so much so that we expect the same from real life. From “The Strain,” to vampires to a massive bubble that holds an entire city hostage, to 24’s Jack Bauer and his uncanny ability to have a thousand bullets shot at him from point blank range or to be tortured and beaten to a pulp and still survive without a scratch as he saves the world from the Russians or the Chinese or Mohammed Abu something or another, the plots thicken as the unsuspecting public waits for its savior to rescue them from the tyranny that is usually the politicians or the U.S. government. And all of this takes place in one hour, minus the commercials of course.
The entertainment industry preys on the fact that we do indeed live in fear of the uncertainty of the future. After all, one can hardly turn on the news without hearing another report of a rabid gunman who kills Amish kids or school children or college students or a sniper who picks off cars from the overpass on the Interstate. We cannot enjoy a quiet day without hearing about home grown terrorists or some new jihadist group. Gruesome videos capture atrocious beheadings and horrific terrorism. A few months ago nobody heard anything about ISIS. A few years before that nobody knew about Al Qaeda. Now they are household names. The goal of terrorism is to create an environment of fear. We live in the constant tension of what awaits us, a dirty bomb perhaps or a biological weapon of pandemic proportion or another 9-11.
Yet this is nothing new. The world has always existed in the death grip of terror. Certainly the first Century church lived that way. Can you imagine living with the threat that, if your neighbor did not like you, he merely had to report to the authorities that you are a Christian. Then you would have to stand trial to either recant your faith or die, just on the word of your neighbor. This is the real meaning behind Paul’s admonition in Titus 2:
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8 ESV)
To live as a true Christian in the early church was dangerous both to you and to your kids. We have come full circle and we are right back to where we started. The persecution of Christians worldwide is an epidemic. Crucifixions and beheadings are commonplace in Moslem run countries. Fathers and mothers are forced to watch their kids raped, tortured and then crucified right before their very eyes because of their refusal to recant their faith. There is nothing new under the sun. Terrorism has always been with us. Yet Americans have been for the most part shielded from such things.
How do we face such horror? Is there a way to live in peace rather than fear? How many times do we hear Jesus instruct His disciples to “fear not?” Such an exhortation encourages me because His need to say it means these men who loved Jesus were fearful. That gives me hope! On the heels of His resurrection He appeared in the midst of them and said those very words. Of what were they afraid? Why did He have to tell them not to fear? What did their fear look like? What gave it away that they were afraid? Were they screaming like little children? Were they huddled in the corner hugging or hiding behind each other? Or did He merely see the fear residing in their hearts? We are not told. But those were His first words to them and to Mary at the tomb and yes, to you and me today. Do not be afraid! Why? Because His perfect love casts out all fear.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19 ESV)
There is something supernatural about the love of our God for His people. Soaking in that love is the antidote to fear. This month my focus in this devotional will be on the matter of fear. Next week we will take a look at Ebola, but perhaps in a way you have never thought of it before. In the meantime, choose to revel in God’s love, that Jesus’ sacrifice brings redemption and forgiveness. That God, our perfect God, is sovereign and we can trust Him.
In His grip,
In Hope Blooms After the Storm, pediatrician Dr. Terry Eccles explores the deep scars of child sexual abuse and its social-emotional consequences in her life, while simultaneously revealing the healing hand of God. The story of abuse at the hands of her father begins when she was a pre-schooler. Read along in laughter, joy, sadness, anger, frustration, and hope as Terry recounts the amazing work of God in the life of an unlikely young girl who follows in the footsteps of Esther, asking, “Isn’t every day just such a time as this?”
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