As we face the coronavirus pandemic, we need to ask ourselves, how do we as a civilization survive and thrive? How do we make it through safely and healthily? There are a lot of fears, suspicions, and questions out there. How do we help each other through this difficulty?
Good post! Thank you
Great reminder. Our church is actively working its food bank and has members calling the members list to check on needs.
Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I can think of no better fitting verse at the moment. Let us not have a spirit of fear. Instead, let’s use a sound mind to trust the science and the medical community.
My state shares COVID updates on a blog called “Facts Not Fear.” Which I thought was an interesting title, because facts are where the fear comes from in the first place. It’s the people who have no fear of the pandemic to the point of carelessness that we’d want to be worried about. But I appreciate this post and this verse especially that helps to fill in the gaps. We should not be oriented toward fear, but instead let it motivate us to do what we need to do… which is another odd part of this pandemic because it feels so polarized. So many people are at home not working while others are maxed out caring for patients and trying to keep food on shelves. It’s nice to have these reminders that even while “social distancing,” we don’t have to be doing nothing.
Excellent point, Laura! Facts don’t always make the fear better. They can sometimes make it worse.
I also think some of those who are careless and ignore the medical advice are also afraid. They are acting out of fear. That fear drives them into denial. Because they are afraid of facing reality, they choose to act as if nothing is wrong, deny the facts, and live as if their actions have no affect on others.
Both of these are wrong. Its ok to have fear. Fear is a natural, God-given response to credible danger. Its interesting that Paul doesn’t say, “God has not given us fear.” He says, “God has not given us a SPIRIT of fear.” What’s the difference? I think, at least, it has to do with Christians not being controlled by fear. We ought not live according to fear, but according to the Spirit. Or as you put it, “We should not be oriented toward fear, but instead let it motivate us to do what we need to do.” Or even walk by faith in the face of fear.
Amen. Good article.
1 John 4:18 (NIV2011)
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
There is no fear in Love, because God is Love and there is no place in God for fear . Love is about faith, not fear.
Perfect Love drives out all fear. Fear is about concern for ourselves, but love is about concern for others, not ourselves.
Humans must not be afraid of God, because fear would have to do with fear of punishment, but since God loves us and forgives us, God does not punish us.
Those who are motivated by fear are not made perfect in Love because there is no fear in Love and God.
I hate to be ‘that guy’ Roger. However, whilst I agree with your sentiments I don’t think 1 John 4:18 is the place to go here. John says that the fear he has in mind here is not a general fear but a specific fear: Fear of judgement
If there is no place for fear in God because God is love how do you explain the countless calls to ‘fear the Lord’? Such as:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Proverbs 9:10 (NIV2011)
“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.” 2 Corinthians 5:11 (NIV2011)
"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;”
Psalms 103:13 (NIV2011)
The Christian certainly has no reason to fear the punishment due to those still under the law’s curse (Cf. Romans 8:15). However, it seems to me that David, Paul and the sages of Proverbs believed that a certain kind of fear should be a product of faith.
I guess what I am saying is: at this time, maybe more than any other time in living memory, we all must be so careful how we use these ‘do not fear’ verses. Please, let’s carefully consider the context before we Cntrl-V.
Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I can think of no better fitting verse at the moment.
Amen! Great article @marusso.
Timothy faced the threat of persecution from outside the church and conflict with false teachers from inside the church. We face the an invisible threat outside the home and perhaps heightened risk of relational conflict inside the home. To both situations Paul’s reminder is simple: he who is for us and in us is greater than our current circumstances.
Also, I love that Paul said ‘us’ and not ‘you’. The same Spirit who sustained Paul’s faith in the face of fear as he sat on death row in Rome is the same Spirit who would sustain Timothy. The same Spirit who sustains us to live by faith in the face of fear.
Thanks again for sharing.
First of all, most of your quotes are from the OT, which is different from the NT and its emphasis on Love.
Second, if you think of respect as a kind of fear, there as some truth in that point of view. We do not really want people to be over familiar with God. People should not mess with God and not mess with others too…
Third, fear is a very negative and destructive emotion. You can’t love someone you fear, why would God want us be afraid of Jesus?
Fourth, speaking faith in the face of fear, is not the same of being afraid. God’s love does not give fear a foothold in the spirit, although of course we being weak se sometimes allow fear to get a toe hold in our mind.
My concern today is that the leadership of the USA has failed to preach faith in Love, and instead encouraged fear of the Other. Has failed to speak Truth about danger and instead treated people like babies Has continued to put their interests before the interests of the nation and thus fail to encourage confidence. God’s prophets need to stand against that failure of leadership
When fear is unwarranted or disproportionate to a threat. Warranted and proportionate fear can serve an important role in keeping you safe.
he who is for us and in us is greater than our current circumstances.
Are you are saying that there is good fear and bad fear, and we can tell people to be afraid expecting that they will know what we are talking about?
How are people going to determine when is fear is rational or not? I go along with FDR when he said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” The problem with fear is that it cause people to act irrationally.
If one is thinks rationally one can see that there is no reason to fear Covid-19 because statistically less than 50% will catch the virus and less that 10% of them will die. However that is not the issue, but how will my actions affect the community. I should do nothing that might allow the virus to spread, unless it is to combat the effects of the disease.
Those decisions must not be made out of fear of the virus, or fear of economic disaster but in love.
I don’t think anyone needs to be telling anyone “Be afraid!” Fear is a natural response to threats, you don’t have to tell people to feel feelings. I think we need to help people manage their fears and be comforting and encouraging, but part of that is acknowledging that some amount of fear is a normal human response to a real threatening situation, and not some lack of faith or love or mental strength or whatever. There will be loss and grief and it’s okay to acknowledge that makes people afraid.
That statistic doesn’t look like “no reason to fear” to me.
I agree that panic and irrational fear are destructive and should not be the place we are making decisions. But you are sounding overly simplistic just quoting verses and saying people should have “no fear.”
I wouldn’t play Russian roulette with a twenty chamber pistol.
No, I said that love casts out all fear. We need to act out of love and not out of fear.
I would suggest that we have very different understandings of the emphasises of the Old and New Testament. The emphasis of the Old Testament (as I see it) is God’s covenant love to his people through his promises and the warning of consequences for sinful disobedience. I don’t see much of a shift in emphasis when we get to the New Testament. Perhaps we can agree to disagree here…
That is the most common explanation for the fear of the Lord but, in my opinion, it doesn’t seem to hold up. Respect =/= Fear. I respect my wife but I don’t fear her. I suspect the reason we struggle to understand the fear of the Lord is that we have never lived under an absolute monarchy where the monarch actually has power over your life or death. Cf. Luke 12:4-5
Says who? Fear is an evolved impulse that protects us from threats. Only uncontrolled or disproporitional fear is destructive. The fear of the Lord is an incredibly healthy response since it drives us to run from his justice by running to him for mercy and grace.
Who says? Growing up I adored my dad, he was my hero, but I feared to upset him and provoke anger. I love God with all my heart, that doesn’t make him any less of a consuming fire.
It is not a question of intention but reality. Scripture’s plain indication is that beholding God’s holy glory is terrifying. That’s why of the first things God says to people when he shows up is ‘Do not be afraid.’ Heck, even his angels are terrifying by all accounts. Incidentally, ‘Do not be afriad’ is the first thing the glorified Lord Jesus says to John in Revelation 1:17. So presumably, seeing Jesus is all his glory is also a scary prospect…
Again it depends who the object of fear is. When we have a healthy fear of God, relatively speaking other things begin to look less scary (he preaches to himself).
I’m struggling to see the relevance to the discussion at hand. Perhaps, as a Brit, I’m missing some cultural context here?
If you do not see much difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the Covenant of Jesus Christ that is your problem. On the other hand why call yourself a Christian when you are only a reformed Jew.
Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV2011)
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus points out that the Kingdom of God is different from the Kingdom of Caesar. I really do not know why you claim that it is the same, except some “Christians” are saying that God made Trump an absolute ruler. .
How can fear of God drive one to God? It does not follow any kind of logic nor is it Biblical.
You are mistaking respect for fear. You respect God and you respect your father, and you love both. Fear on the other hand is irrational, because you cannot trust one whom you fear. You can trust God to keep God’s Word. If you did not think that your father loved you, you would not have loved you.
Respect should be a part of love. We need to respect the needs and rights of other, and the goodness of God. On the other hand fear is the opposite of trust and faith. It is the source of sin, not the sure of sin.
The ultimate threat to us is death. If there is anything that humans should be afraid of it would be death, but Jesus shows us that He has conquered death and so there is no fear is Christ. That means in Jesus we have traded fear for faith and courage.
It does not mean that we invite death, although Paul says he does not mind it. We face it with courage and faith that is is not our enemy, but a part of God’s plan for us.
Thanks for your reply, Roger. You make some good points though I’m still not convinced that fear = respect.
I suspect neither one of us will convince the other of over a forum discussion on this topic. There is just too many terms that need defining and theological positions/doctrines that need clarifying.
So Shall we agree to disagree, brother?
I remember an analogy that I heard or read years ago (think ‘decades’ ) that has stuck with me, but I don’t know that can do it justice.
It involves mountaineers on a glacier who are caught in a sudden blinding blizzard on very dangerous terrain on, say, a ledge, and not being able to see any place to shelter. But, feeling their way along, they come to the opening of a small ice cave that is dry and large enough that they can all get into it, and back far enough from its opening to be sheltered from the raging storm outside and be quite comfortable, since they have supplies.
So the analogy is, roughly, that the storm, and maybe including the glacier, is a metaphor for God, mighty and fearsome, and definitely respected. But once sheltered, they still have the adrenaline rush of excitement which they love, and in a way, love the storm, knowing that they are safe from it without the fear of danger,. So they still ‘fear’ the storm, but in a different sense, and more intensely than just ‘respect’. And of course, the group is analogous to Christians who have found their rest in God.