Bread — Fear

January 16, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, January 16, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 41:1-16; Eph. 2:1-10; Mk 1:29-45; Psalms 12,13,14, 119:1-24

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Today’s readings concern three types of fear – fear of death or physical harm, fear of abandonment or emotional harm, and fear of obedience or harm to our self-image.

In Isaiah, we look at the fear of death or physical harm. Isaiah is addressing the people of Israel. He points out that people will be incensed and angry against the Jews, that people will work against the Jews, and that people will wage war against them. In the face of this potential for death or grave physical (and economic and emotional) harm, Isaiah says “..fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;…For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isa. 41:10,13

In Ephesians, we look at fear of abandonment or emotional harm. Basically, Paul was in prison and, apparently, the Ephesians were becoming concerned about him. That concern can be of two types. One type is that they could be concerned for Paul’s wellbeing. Another is that they are concerned for themselves, that their leader will be taken away from them, will essentially abandon them, and that, as a result, they will suffer emotionally. Paul says to the Ephesians “…in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” Eph. 3:12-13 Another way of saying the same thing would be for Paul to say “Fear not, for you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. You do not need me; you only need Him.”

The third type of fear is more subtle, but equally powerful. It is the fear we have of being obedient to Christ and His commands, based in part in fear of baring our souls to Him and in part because our sin is revealed with power in those close encounters with Christ. The knowledge of God forces us to change some, and we are fearful of change. The relationship with God at the heart level forces us to change a lot, with a commensurate rise in our fear of change factor. We do not confess our sins because, when we do, our sins are before us and our self-image, the haughty prideful image of man at the apex of life, is brought low. We fear this. This lack of obedience is demonstrated today in Mark, where Jesus cleans a leper and tells the leper what to do next, instructions which are totally ignored by the leper. Why would the leper disobey the Christ who healed Him? Why do we do so every day? Perhaps it was because of exceeding joy in the leper, which caused him to do what he wanted to do in celebration and not what he was told to do. Perhaps, though, it was because in the process of being obedient to Christ, he would discover other, deeper sin, requiring him to return to Christ regularly for forgiveness, restoration, and love.

Isaiah reports the word of God – “Fear not, for I am with you.” Paul tells the Ephesians not to fear or to lose heart, because God is with them. Mark demonstrates a single act of disobedience resulting in a receipt of half a loaf of blessing; the leper is made clean of his leprosy, but there is no evidence that the man was restored to fellowship with God (else why the disobedience?).

In a very real sense, we are always being forced to look at simple dichotomies between kingdom thinking and worldly thinking. The way of Christ is light; the way of the world is darkness. The way of Christ is salvation through grace; the way of the world is salvation through works. Likewise, the way of Christ is the absence of fear; the way of the world is action and thinking driven by fear all the time.

You might ask yourself today in your decision-making whether you are being driven by fear or by love. If being driven by fear, why when God has said to “Fear not” because He is with you. Why be driven by fear when God has commanded us not to be?

Lord, help us today to be driven by love and grace and not by fear, knowing that You have it well under control. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

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© 2013 GBF

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