If you read my blog regularly you will know that a few years ago I had to get rid of all my books (and all our furniture and other belongings as well) – on the advice of the “best science!” from knowledgeable University people – as they harbour mould spores which could mean death to me. It was a bit sad. It is sad to have to walk past second hand book stores etc. It also means I only half remember what I want to remember and cannot check up on details of stories, facts, for accuracy.
Somewhere or other in one of my now long gone books I remember a story of a wee boy expressing concern about a family near to where they lived who had lost a child. The wee concerned boy was a Christian as was his family. Their own pastor like the people he was concerned about had also lost a child. His mother asked the wee boy why he had not expressed concern about the pastor and his wife and their tragedy. His reply was that he did care about them, but they had Jesus and “They know what to do. The other family don’t know what to do.”
That half remembered story reminds me of one of my most favourite ever memories of parish ministry. Someone, attending the prayer meeting for the first time prayed like this: “Lord, I thank you for bringing me to this church. Before I came here, I did not know there was another way to do life but now I have seen there is another way.”
Part of the Incarnation of God in Jesus is that He faced what we face and showed us another way to do life. He did not mock human beings and their struggle and live as some sort of a Superman figure untouched by the struggles of other mortals. He became one with us in our struggle and lived our life before dying our death.
It seems to me that in the present situation the world finds itself in working out as best we can how to face the Coronavirus problem that Christians need to show two things. First of all, solidarity with humanity, of which we are part. Secondly it is an opportunity to share with others that facing what we are all facing God helps us find a path in which there is no panic, in which we have found an answer to our fears. Beyond that, of course, we can share about prayer, faith in what God can do etc, but let’s begin where our God began in Christ. Showing our oneness with human beings in their struggles and on that basis helping people to know it is possible to “Be not afraid.”
Of course there is more to be said, but as I have watched “Superman” bravado from some well known Christian figures, this is what was most on my mind today.
By the way, if you are a believer and finding it hard to be free from fear, don’t feel condemned by this post. Jesus knew that can be a struggle. It is why the Bible says repeatedly, “Don’t be afraid.” I don’t agree with the teaching that anxiety is a sin as though it is a disobedience to a command not to fear. I believe such teaching is a damaging error.
“Don’t be afraid” is the voice of the God of compassion who understands us who knows trust is learned by the passing of time and through experience of someone who tells us we can trust them. It is His voice telling us there is a place He can get us to. If we are not there yet, that is not a reason for self-condemnation. It is an encouragement to keep hold of Jesus who is “The Way.” So, an appeal to preachers. Stop telling people their worry or anxiety is a sin. It won’t help. Be a channel of the presence of the One who tells us patiently and persistently not to be afraid. By the grace of God, strength and courage will rise and fearful hands will reach out to One they sense is near as you preach, to take hold of the One who does not judge them or express a frown towards upturned faces and outreaching hands.