by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 1:20
‘Do not be afraid’ is the most repeated phrase in the Bible.
I while back I stated that we live in the most peaceful of times. I am not sure everyone agrees with me. I took my information from Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World 2.0 (2012). Zakaria writes, “It feels like a very dangerous world. But it isn’t. Your chances of dying as a consequence of organized violence of any kind are low and getting lower” (8). Zakaria cites the numbers that show major countries are not engaged in war. Big countries with big wars cause big loss of life. But it feels like we live in dangerous times because news is so immediate now. The internet with its cell phone cameras immediately bring all news to our big and small screens. The media companies have a large profit motive to get you to watch their feed. So they make everything outrageous.
Today The Economist presents what near past was like for terrorism. Here are the statistics. Deaths by terrorism in 2014 are up by 80% from 2013, to 32,685, “the biggest rise in 15 years” (The Economist Espresso, Dec. 28, 2015). Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria account for 78% of lives lost. Eleven additional countries experienced deaths of 500 of more, up from five countries in 2013. Islamic State and Boko Haram were responsible for 51% of all terrorist-related deaths according the The Economist’s sources. Pakistan and Nigeria are beginning to curb terrorism, and ISIS is losing ground.
If memory serves me, Al Qaeda was brought down by banking clerks locking up their funds, and by Muslim mothers who turned against the terrorists saying ‘you’re killing off all our children – I don’t believe in your cause.’ Terrorism self defeats. Also, terrorism only works if you are terrorized.
The Economist notes that rich countries in the West are afraid, but they should remember that between 2000 and 2014 only 2.6% of deaths from terrorism occurred in their countries. That includes 9/11. All of North America and most of Europe is relatively safe.
Even with the updated death-by-terrorism statistics we still live in the most peaceful time in human history, quoting Harvard professor Steven Pinker (Post… 9).
Crashing into all the hype-fear come the words of Paul: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1 Philippians 1:21). Paul’s big chapter on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15, transcends all fear of death, because death is defeated in Christ. “Oh death where is your sting?” (v55).
Fear is the opposite of Faith. To buy into the “prophets of fear” (read “profits of fear”), is a denial of Jesus’ victory over the grave. Christians shall not be afraid: He has risen! To countermand the hype-fear you must immerse yourself in the scriptures. There you will find people afraid (otherwise that phrase would not be necessary), but they either cave in to the fear and do not trust God, or they trust God and change the course of history for their people. Esther, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel… the list of Bible people who trusted God rather than hype-fear and even real fear of death.
Let us enter the new year with a biblical “meta-narrative” (big story of meaning), instead of the media’s hype. As Dallas Willard once wrote, summarizing Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter six, “…our universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be” (The Divine Conspiracy, 66). Consider the sparrows, they do not worry and yet the Father feeds them. How much more valuable are you to the Father than little birds?
If you are a Christian living in Nigeria you are not safe. If you are a Christian living in Syria you are not safe – no one is safe there. But American Christians: you are so very safe. Act like it. Pray for your brothers and sisters who are truly not safe. And here’s my real call to action: if you still feel unsafe then you need to go spend time alone with God. Quiet time, retreat time, solitude and silence produce compassionate action-oriented Christians. But Christians who listen to political pundits do not have the mind of Christ.