The enemy of faith is fear.
At the end of Mark 4, when the disciples wake Jesus from one of those long, deep naps we wish our toddlers would take because of a storm they are convinced is going to kill them, he exclaims: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” In Mark 5, as Jesus is on his way to heal Jairus’ daughter and Jairus gets word his daughter already is dead, Jesus proclaims to him and his wife, “Do not fear; only believe.”
Reading these two chapters together, I was convicted about the place I allow for fear in my own heart. These stories are examples of situations in which any one of us naturally would be filled with fear. The storm is closing in around us, and we fear for our lives. We lose a loved one, and we fear the future, fear losing them, fear this massive enemy called death. But Jesus looks to our natural response and calls us to faith, not fear.
He calls us to believe.
Fear is natural, because we are finite, limited creations who cannot see the future and so much of our lives is outside of our control. The command to fear not is a lot harder to live out than it seems at first. Life is hard and filled with mystery, suffering and the unknown. We are weak and limited, and therefore, fear is natural.
Faith is supernatural. Looking to Jesus and trusting his power and presence in the midst of storms and loss is not natural. Faith is a gift we can cultivate, and life will give us many opportunities to choose faith over fear.
Today, one of the main places we see fear cripple the church and its witness is in the realm of partisan politics. Partisan politics necessarily plays on our fears. “The Republicans want to take away everyone’s healthcare and give your money to the rich.” “The Democrats want to persecute your Christian beliefs and change your whole way of life.” A browse through the newsfeed of social media shows how each side plays on the fears of their constituents, and we should not stand for it.
We cannot let fear dictate our lives, and we should not let fear dominate our politics. Our natural response is to fear the other and let our hearts be led to fear by those we read or listen to for our news.
As Christians in the political sphere, we can fight against fear at least two ways.
First, seek the truth. Don’t believe everything you see on Facebook—you would think we would know this by now. Listen to the other side, read widely, watch different news channels and find the balance between the two sides. There, most of the time, is where you will find the truth. Seek the truth for yourself, listen to your conscience and ask the Holy Spirit for discernment. It is foolish to hear only one perspective. We need to seek the truth and not let one side or the other lead us to fear by exaggerating or distorting the facts.
Second, remember those who disagree with us and even those who oppose us are made in the image of God and loved by him. It is hard to fear and hate others when we remember this truth. God loves them, and we are called to love them as well. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
Each and every day as we pick up the paper, turn on the television or log on to social media, we have a choice. Will we let fear of the future, fear of the other dictate our thoughts and actions today, or will we choose faith?
Christians know God’s love, and we know God’s faithful promises. We don’t have to give in to fear. We don’t have to let one side tell us what to think. We can seek and know the truth. We don’t have to give in to fear of the other. We can love those who think, believe and vote differently than we do, because God loves them and they are created in his image.
Choose faith. Seek the truth. Choose to see others for who they really are as creations of God.
Let go of fear.
Zac Harrel is pastor of First Baptist Church in Gustine, Texas.