Kevin’s Conversations: Do Not Fear …. or Should We?
In many circles today we keep hearing the mantras that we can’t fear. We hear that we can’t be led by fear and we can not give up liberty and freedom for security and safety. In certain circles the incantation rings over and over that we can not fear man, but God only. I agree with these sentiments, at least in part.
At the same time, is it always wrong to fear? Is it a sin to fear? Fear is an emotion, not an action. Emotions, in and of themselves are not right and wrong, but they are benevolent capabilities endowed to us by God. Now, we can allow our emotions to lead us to right and wrong thoughts and actions, but just having an emotional feeling is not wrong in and of itself. Fear in many ways is like anger. We know that anger can lead to many harmful things, but that anger itself is not necessarily wrong. Even as God warns us many times not to be angry, we recognize at the same time that there is such a thing as righteous anger. We even see it chronicled in Scripture at times in the life of Jesus. The warnings we get about anger and the dangers of it are entailed in the adverse and sinful actions it can cause in the moment and the stewing or dwelling in it which can lead to even deeper and more harmful attitudes and actions. It is an emotion that we need to handle with great care and control.
In this manner, fear is much alike anger. It is an emotion that can have many damaging effects if not managed with caution and mindfulness. However, fear, in and of itself can be a good and healthy thing, even “righteous” as we would label certain kinds of anger as such. Even Jesus, Himself, exhibited fear in the garden as He was soon to encounter the cross. Therefore, just like anger, fear, in and of itself, is not wrong or sinful.
If a wild animal is charging at you in attack, fear kicks in and drives the needed energy to try to escape or protect ourselves. If you see a child crossing the street in front of a speeding vehicle, fear instantly flashes in our being and triggers us to do whatever we can to save the child. An absence of fear in these situations would not a good thing. In fact, it would be very abnormal and unhealthy and would be an indicator that something isn’t working right in your being.
When a very contagious virus with no certain cure comes along and is killing hundreds of thousands of people with many experts believing it could kill millions if we don’t take significant action, fear is a very normal, and in many ways, healthy response. Now, what we then do with that fear is the crux of the matter. If we choose to live in that fear and obsess over it and not trust God, that is not good. If we choose to allow fear to dominate every thought and regularly override other considerations in making decisions, this is also not good. These behaviors would be very unhealthy and harmful to ourselves and others. However, if we allow that feeling of fear to cause us to be prudent and consider precautions and avoid the recklessness of ignoring a very real threat to the health and lives of people all around the world, that is a good and even righteous thing.
We should not allow this pandemic to come down to a narrative of we either choose to be brave or we choose to be fearful. The most healthy response is probably some mixture of both. We should not be so fearful that we become frozen in inaction and frightened to allow anybody to ever leave their homes again, condemning those that do. But we also don’t want to become so pridefully brave that we indifferently cast aside concern for our neighbor and castigate those who show any measure of “fear”.
Also, this pandemic is not an issue of being fearful of “man” as it is so often portrayed. Those who are exhibiting fear are fearful of a virus that could kill them and their loved ones and their neighbors; it is not a fear of “man”. They are not fearing the possibility of what may happen if they “disobey” their government that is putting restrictions in place, rather they are fearing what the virus could do to them and their fellow man if they don’t follow the governmental restrictions. Now, some certainly can take these fears too far, but at their base, it is fear of something very unpleasant and prevalent that God has ordained/allowed/(or pick your theologically preferred term) to run rampant across our world at this time.
Now an irony here, many of those who admonish us not to fear, are just as fearful themselves, only of different things. While they may not on the surface fear the virus or the expert opinions or the possible consequences of disobeying “man” telling us to put restrictions in place, in many ways they fear the loss of rights or freedoms or an overreaching government. They fear what could come in the rising and establishment of a tyranny. Now, again, these fears in and of themselves, are not wrong or sinful. If they cause us to be prudent and consider precautions to avoid a tyranny from coming to be, that can be a beneficial approach. But if those fears are taken too far and drive and dominate our thoughts and decision making, then just as those who become overly fearful of the virus, we allow the fears of a tyranny or losing liberty to bring about unhealthy and harmful attitudes and actions.
Many of us are going to lean one way or another as to what we fear more. And that is not necessarily wrong. Simultaneously, this is not an issue of whether we’re piously choosing to fear God or cowardly choosing to fear man. If we can manage to find and maintain a healthy balance of fears of a deadly virus and fears of an overreaching government, while regulating those fears so that they help us to be prudent and avoid recklessness while at the same time keeping them under control so that they do not dominate our thinking and lead us to harmful or sinful actions, we almost certainly would be much better off as a society than we presently are.
Rather than chastising others for their fears, we could encourage them to control and balance their fears and use the resultant energy from those fears to produce upright and helpful actions for everyone involved. It sure seems worth a try compared to many other ways we have gone about handling this pandemic.