I Will Not Fear
Two great fears stalk the American public: We are afraid of the coronavirus and we fear the growing control of the government in our lives at all levels.
On the one side, there are those who are absolutely consumed with fear that they or someone they love might contract this virus. How do we protect ourselves? How do we stop it, or at least control its spread? The disease is real. The danger is real. The level of fear it has raised is almost supernatural.
On the other side are those who believe that the government is taking advantage of the unprecedented magnitude of this infection to expand its control over our lives. I find that many Christians (my brothers and sisters) are especially concerned about this side of the issue. The same questions prevail: How do we protect ourselves? How do we stop it, or at least control its spread? The level of fear it has brought with it is almost supernatural.
There are a lot of folks in my life for whom I am concerned in the midst of this pandemic. I don’t want any of my family, close friends, or members of our church family to contract this dangerous virus. And, like many Americans, I am concerned about the level of intrusion that this pandemic seems to be bringing into our lives through our federal and regional governments. I am an American who believes our constitution and the liberties afforded each of us are among the most precious treasures we have as citizens. I don’t like some of the things I’m hearing like compulsory vaccinations, immunity papers, forced compliance, RFID chips, compliance tattoos, and immunity “police.” Our history has seen the rise and fall of too many forms of tyranny imposed “for the good of the people.” So yes, I am always pessimistic when I see what appears to be growing overreach in our government.
I am an American. I am also a Christian.
As a Christian armed with the knowledge of the Scriptures, I should neither be surprised by the developments of recent days nor should I be in terror of them. We are clearly told in the Bible that in the days that precede the coming of Christ there would be great trouble. We are told unequivocally that the earth would experience natural disasters of all sorts, including deadly plagues, and political upheaval on a global scale. I don’t know how close we are to the coming of Christ, but we are certainly closer than we were when these warnings were penned. When these things should come to pass, we are told repeatedly in the Word of God that we should not be afraid. These things are a harbinger of His coming and in the shadow of this trouble we must live in anticipation of the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
Concerning the intrusion of government into our lives, we have also received ample warning. Listen to the words of Jesus from the 13th chapter of the gospel of Mark:
“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Now, brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Mark 13:9-13)
Jesus sat on the hillside overlooking Jerusalem and warned his followers that the “government,” (councils, rulers, and kings) would seek to curtail the spread of Christianity through the courts. He told them (and us, I believe) not to be surprised when the arrests and trials begin. It’s all a part of God’s great plan so that the gospel can be preached to those who have insulated themselves from it by their power or position.
His instructions are clear: “Don’t worry.” The Holy Spirit will fill you in that hour and you will become His witnesses. We will literally become the mouthpiece of God in those hours. In light of that, we must not become the mouthpiece of fear. We must encourage, not spread terror. Our commission and charge do not change with the coming of pressure or persecution. We are commanded to preach the gospel whatever the particular circumstances we may be in.
Jesus even warns us about being betrayed by family and friends in those hours. We are all hearing about the government offering to pay folks to turn in anyone who is not wearing a mask or social distancing properly. Hotlines and websites have been set up so you can turn your neighbor in if he walks his dog too close to your house. The term “contact tracing” has some ominous overtones, for sure.
American culture is being psychologically conditioned for a “new normal.” Certain phrases are heard over and over again through our television news outlets and government press conferences that are shaping our responses.
“We’re all in this together.” On the nightly news, on commercials from car companies, and huge corporations, so much that we start to believe it. Does this mean that those who don’t follow the letter of all recommendations are not in it with us; perhaps, they are outsiders and we can treat them as such. We had an event locally of a family from New York that had recently moved to Vermont and because of government shutdowns were not able to get their car re-registered in Vermont. Passers-by, seeing the “foreign plate” assumed they had come on vacation to Vermont, putting “us” at risk. This poor family was subjected to horrible harassment and accusations.
Or, how about “stay home, stay safe.” This implies that by staying home, you are doing something that helps protect people. To not stay home then, is putting others at risk. Of course, without context, it implies that if you are not staying in your house you are selfish and uncaring about the safety of others.
This “new normal” is an oft familiar phrase that is conditioning us to believe that isolation, social distancing, and even turning in our neighbors––in essence––living in fear is the new normal and those who respond differently, or if we don’t feel they are practicing proper protocol is setting us for a perfect storm of neighbor turning in neighbor or even children turning on their parents. My point is that seemingly safe, even helpful, practices can turn from innocuous to vile without even realizing it.
We should not be surprised at these changes, nor should we live in fear of them. If I read the words of Jesus correctly in Mark 13 and other passages, these conditions are precisely what we should expect as we move closer to the end of all days. American Christians are spending far too much time lamenting the fall of America which causes great fear, and far too little time anticipating the rise of the Kingdom of God which should bring great joy and huge anticipation. Imagine it! We are living in a day when the society which has afforded us so much freedom and ease will rise up against us, believing they will somehow stem the spread of the good news of the gospel. Instead, to their consternation, they will see ordinary men and women rise up in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and with great power proclaim that the day of the Lord is upon us!
The Word of God declares without equivocation, “If the Son of Man sets you free, you are free indeed.” For those living in fear that we are being robbed of our freedoms I will simply tell you this: For those who are set free in Christ, it is not possible that our freedoms can be taken from us. Chains cannot rob us and prison cells cannot extinguish what Christ has given us. Those who would think to steal what Christ has given are blind to the power of God and to the nature of our true liberty. Men are power hungry in this world, but they have no power to overthrow you or the life of Christ that is within you. Throw me in prison, and those walls will vibrate with His praises. Cut out my tongue and I will grunt to His glory. Drag me into court and I will testify of Christ. Demand my defense, and I will preach Jesus!
I fear that when many of us ask God to save America, we are really asking that He would preserve our lifestyle. It is possible He won’t do either.