Fear Itself


I was reading an article the other day about what we can learn about people based on the ways that they have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

My Facebook feed is a petri dish for that kind of experiment.  My friends have been all over the map when it comes to their responses to all of this, and I've learned a lot about them as a result. 

For example, I have more than a few friends and acquaintances who have not been shy about how they feel about being quarantined.

Some believe that they are being responsible by being cautious, practicing social distancing and wearing a mask.

And others feel it is their responsibility to get back to the way things used to be when bars and restaurants were open and people didn't walk around wearing masks and standing six feet apart.

There are extremes on that spectrum, to be fair.  I've had to unfollow more than a few people over the course of these past two months just to keep from ruining my Christian witness, if you know what I mean. 

Bless their hearts.

I do know at least a couple of things for sure when it comes to all of this COVID-19 stuff... There's a lot of fear, and far too many of us are responding to it in ways that aren't at all helpful. 

I  get it.  For my part, I'm tired of feeling afraid.  It's wearing on me.  I feel like some days I have broken free of it, and then it comes back in a hurry. 

But I'm also weary of the ridicule that has occurred when people who say they aren't afraid, go off on those who are more cautious.  

And by the same token, I'm weary of how folks who are cautious tend to demonize those who say they aren't afraid.  

Here's the 411 on that... everyone is afraid.  We're all just afraid of different things. 

Fear can make you do some crazy stuff.  It can turn reasonable people into lunatics.  It can pit friends against one another on social media.  It can drive people apart, and into their respective ideological camps.

And it can make Christians say some awful things to one another, about one another.  I'm about to say something that may offend someone, but honestly... it needs to be said: 

The fact that I wear a mask when I go out in public does not make me a faithless Christian, or a bad American.    

For me, wearing a mask just my way of doing whatever little thing I can to protect others, and to honor what I feel is the social compact in the community within which I live--a community I  happen to love very much. 

On the other hand, if someone doesn't want to wear a mask in public, that's their right to do so. It doesn't mean that they are a hate-monger or a fanatic. There are large sections of our country where masks are not the norm. 

Fear has driven people on all of the sides of this issue to seek security at all costs.  For some it's security against the virus.  For others it's security against a financial meltdown.  But make no mistake---it's all grounded in fear. 

Henri Nouwen once wrote:
Fear makes people cling to security.  Some of us prefer to be secure and a little miserable rather than insecure and vitalized... The more we make security our primary concern the harder it is to be joyful.  
Ain't that the truth, right? There's a lot of joylessness going on right now, for sure as we each seek to alleviate our fears in our own way.  

But as followers of Jesus, we have access to a resource that is easy to neglect when we are trying so hard to handle our fears on our own: The Spirit of Christ, which is present in us, and in all things. 

The Apostle Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy about this kind of thing, and told him: 
For the Spirit we were given doesn't lead us to fearfulness, but provides us with the power we need to practice love and self-control.
In other words, we are encouraged to let go of our fear, we don't need it, and it will inhibit us from fully following Jesus.  We should not let fear cloud our judgment, steal our joy and destroy our peace.  

Instead, we should do everything we can to experience the peace-filled, confident and joyful presence of the Risen Christ in our lives.  

May you experience a fear-free existence as you stumble after Jesus.  Know that you have access to all the power you need to let fear go, and to be filled with the joy of Resurrection Life.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. 

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