Beyond Fear

By Mark A. Taylor

Gene Appel spoke of fear at Eastside Christian Church (Anaheim, California) July 10. This was the first Sunday after two black men, one in Louisiana and another in Minnesota, were shot by white police officers and later in the same week five officers were killed by a black sniper after a peaceful rally in Dallas, Texas. These tragedies were on everyone’s mind that week, along with the continual staccato of news about global terrorism and political upheaval.

“When the disciples huddled in secret after Christ’s crucifixion, they were afraid, too,” Appel said. And then he introduced that Sunday’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper with the reminder that Christ died to pay the penalty for sin, which is at the source of all fear, and rose from the grave to dispel the fear of his disciples then and now.

Aug2_MT_JNBut July 10 was not the first Sunday we could have thought about fear.

Exactly one year ago I used this space to ask, “How shall we react in times that seem to become more unsettled every week?”

This was just after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in the U.S. but before a Kentucky clerk of courts went to jail because she refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses.

It was before Donald Trump stoked fears about the future to garner a presidential nomination and before Hillary Clinton used fear about Donald Trump to propel her own candidacy. This was before terrorist attacks killed hundreds in civilized Western cities, Paris and Brussels and Nice and San Bernardino.

Indeed, the times are no less settled today than when I wrote a year ago. “Wars and rumors of war” fill every newscast. The turmoil and bloodshed continue unabated in the Mideast and Africa while conflict, suspicion, injustice, and death plague our own communities. And the question remains, “How shall we react in times that seem to become more unsettled every week?”

Politicians will promise to address our fears in this election season, and some Christians will continue to cling to the misguided notion that the government is our hope. Others, disillusioned by their dissatisfaction with our choices on this year’s ballot, will sink into despair.

But neither fear nor despair are fruits of the Spirit, and even in troubled times, the Christian can live with victory and resolve. Not that we should retreat to some Pollyanna bubble with platitudes about “God’s in control” and “This world is not our home.” Instead, desperate times should motivate us to determined action in our broken world.

Never were the Lord’s words truer than today: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). Satan will continue to discourage workers like you and me because he wants us to hide and hunker down instead of going after the harvest. What better audience to receive a message of hope than a population riddled with fear? These are times to seize opportunity not retreat from it.

Appel acknowledged, in a July 15 NACC interview with Christian Standard, that many are discouraged by the situation today. “But I’m challenged by it,” he said.

Now is the time for each of us to take up that challenge. As we equip ourselves for the harvest, we can remember the promise of God’s Word: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

 

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