Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Living in Fear

It is often taken as a sign of weakness to "live in fear." We claim that we don't want to be afraid, and we don't want our lives to be dictated by something outside ourselves. To fear something or someone is essentially to allow our actions, decisions, and behavior to be shaped by them. We give the ones we fear reverence or respect by considering them in all elements of our lives. 

Understandably, we don't want to live in fear of things: people, of illness, or tragedy, or hardship. Heck, one of the most comforting commands in Scripture is "Fear not" (Is. 41:10; Lk. 2:10). However, there is a healthy type of fear...and Jesus commands that we live in it.

Let's set the scene. Jesus has walked with his disciples for several months. They have aided in his ministry and learned from his actions and his teaching. But they have not yet gone out alone and ministered; they have always been physically alongside their Rabbi. In Matthew 10, Jesus is about to send them out...alone. He will not physically go with them, and they will teach, preach, heal, pray, and minister on their own. I imagine they felt a host of emotions: excitement, anxiety, anticipation, humility, and, maybe above all, fear.

Understanding this, Jesus exhorts them (and, by extension, exhorts us as well): "So have no fear of them [those who persecute you], for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Matt. 10:26-28)

Jesus' words enter to free them of certain fear. But he doesn't stop there. He frees us from certain fear, but he also subjects us to another type of fear.

"Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

Jesus is saying that we all "fear" something or someone. As we live our lives, something is enthroned with power and authority, and we bow the knee each day. Sometimes, we hesitate to speak God's Word, as we fear co-workers, classmates, or our own status. Sometimes, we hesitate to pray for our world, as we fear inconvenience, sacrifice, and time. 

The disciples in Matthew 10, on the verge of their first "mission trip" were in the same boat that we find ourselves in. And Jesus' message remains the same. We must live in fear. Not of people, or personal reputation, or pleasure, or status. We must live in fear of the Sovereign One, who gave us life, gave us forgiveness, and who will someday judge us.

"In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 56:11)