May 2020

May 2020

Faith, Fear, and Folly: How Do We Christians Respond to Danger?

I’ve heard a lot lately about how we Christian are being ruled by fear in our responseto the coronavirus. As the deadly
virus spreads, we continue to suspend divinely commanded in-person gatherings for worship.But if we really believe that
God will protect us, should we be afraid of the virus?  If we really believe that when we die we will be with Jesus that day in Paradise, should we fear deadly illness? Should we not live byfaith, and not by fear?

As I mull over the word “fear,” a flurry of biblical images floods my mind. I think of the dreadful voice of God in the Garden, and how it terrified the wounded conscience of Adam. I think of the flood that overwhelmed the world in the days of Noah, a manifestation of the wrath of God if ever there was one. I think of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt, the judgment of God upon His own people in the wilderness, the judgment of God upon the wicked peoples of Canaan. I think about the imagery often used in the psalms comparing the arrival of God in His righteous fury to a terrible thunderstorm. When is the last time you heard a crash of thunder seemingly right overyour head? It’s terrifying! It is only natural that we should be afraid of such things. Fear and respect go hand in hand.

What do you call it when you’re not afraid of the things through which God manifests His wrath? Folly. “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). The “fool” here isn’t just expressing an atheistic worldview. He’s expressing the folly of fearlessness in the face of God’s wrath. He imagines that God will never punish his iniquity. “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart: ‘There is no fear of God before my eyes’” (Ps. 36:1). “All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God…. God has forgotten, He has hidden His face, He will never see it’” (Ps.10:4, 11). What is the root of the wicked man’s folly? His unbelief. He doesn’t believe that God will actually punish his transgression. He doesn’t take seriously the threat of God’s wrath.

We need to distinguish faith from folly. If I am not afraid of the coronavirus, why not? Is it because I haven’t experienced it for myself, and it remains a distant and unlikely possibility that it will actually harm me? Many of those who have died in panic and isolation due to the coronavirus probably thought the same thing early on. Is it because I believe that God will protect me from it no matter what? You’d better have a pretty strong direct revelation to conduct yourself on that basis. Is it because I believe that death cannot separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Well, that’s true, but then why do I take so many other reasonable precautions throughout my life, like locking my doors, wearing seatbelts, and not walking through bad neighborhoods? The fact is that fear is a constant element in our lives, and the one thing it does more than anything else is keep us back from folly.

There are, to be sure, times when faith must overwhelm fear. The two classic examples are both from the Book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are willing to face the fiery furnace rather than worship the golden statue (Daniel 3). Daniel is willing to face the lions’ den rather than refrain from the worship of his God (Daniel 6). In both cases, the faithful are faced with two different fears: the fear of God and the fear of man. In both cases they fear God rather than men, which is another way of saying they have faith. In both cases God delivers them by faith, but even if their bodies had not been delivered, even if they had perished in flames or at the hand of the lions, they would still have remained faithful.

So where does that put us? We need to obey the command of God and fear Him more than we fear men.  Is the
coronavirus from God or from men? It is clearly from God, and we must approach it with a healthy fear. We need to take it seriously and not toy with it. We need to reflect on what it could do to us, and more importantly, what it could do to our neighbors through us if we do not take proper precautions. God has commanded us to gather for worship, but He has also placed us now into circumstances in which such gathering endangers our communities. Until we can gather safely, we will worship God in our homes according as He has enabled us, and we will pray for a swift end to the crisis so that we can gather as the household of God once again. In a very real way, you have nothing to fear from the coronavirus. “Perfect love casts out fear,” that is, the fear that “has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18). The virus cannot harm you apart from what your heavenly Father has ordained for your good, and if it does harm you under His providence, you are still promised eternal life through faith in the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. But let’s take it seriously as a manifestation of God’s power and might, His righteousness and His wrath. God deliver us from folly, and keep us in godly fear, faith, and love.

God's Blessings!

Pastor Neuendorf