On a recent broadcast, Shepard Smith of Fox News took to task what he called the “hysterical voices” that are spreading fear and panic over Ebola in the United States.
After telling viewers that “You should have no concerns about Ebola at all. None. I promise,” he added, “Fear not. Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and the television or read the fear-provoking words online. The people who say and write hysterical things are being very irresponsible.”
“Fear not.” Now whether he was aware that he was quoting scripture or not, that’s what he was doing. God and His messengers uttered those words to God’s people at least eighty times in the Bible. In fact, by some estimates, “fear not” and variations such as “be not afraid” are the most often-repeated commands in all of Scripture.
That’s fitting because it also might be the most transgressed-against command, especially in modern life.
We all know the expression “sex sells.” But it’s also true that fear sells, especially among the middle-aged and the elderly. If you can stand it, try watching an afternoon worth of commercials and take note of how many of them appeal to fear and anxiety that we have over, well, everything: our health, our family’s future, our finances, and, especially in the run-up to the November elections, our national security, special interest groups and our very way of life.
And it isn’t only the ads: The reason for what Smith called the “hysterical voices” is that television networks and other media outlets know that fear and panic are good for business.
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t things in the world today to be concerned about—of course there are. Besides Ebola, we’ve got ISIS and the collapse of order in the Middle East, home-grown terrorism, the decay of decency, growing restrictions on religious liberty—and for some, simply putting food on the table.
But make no mistake, the media know that a frightened audience is one that will stay tuned-in for every scrap or morsel of news, no matter how fragmentary or out-of-context it might be.
I wish I could say that Christians are immune to this kind of fear and are innocent of the sin of fear-mongering. But we’re not. In fact, let me be honest with you: While we would never intentionally stoke fear among our listeners, one of the hardest things we do at BreakPoint is attempt to strike a balance between telling folks the unvarnished truth about the challenges that Christians face and avoiding giving them a reason to be fearful and to despair.
And on behalf of Eric and all of our team, at any of those times that we’ve failed to strike that balance, we apologize to you and we repent before God.
As Christians, we ought to know better than to fear, because we know how the story of the world—and our story—ends. It’s an ending beautifully summed up by Thomas Howard in his book, “Christ the Tiger.” In which he reminds us that our Lord announces that he “[makes] all things new” and does “what cannot be done.”
Here’s a passage from Howard’s book:
God “[restores] the years that the locusts and worms have eaten . . . the years you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheel-chair . . . the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny and the failure of justice. . .”
And, in an awe-inspiring act of grace, God restores “the good which [our] own foolish mistakes have cheated [us] of.”
How do we know this is true? Because He raised his only-begotten Son from the dead. He destroyed sin and death, and in so doing, demonstrated, to quote Howard again, “the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.”
This is the Good News that not only overcomes fear, but for those who have heard it, it renders fear absurd.
One of the greatest gifts we can offer an increasingly-fearful world is to be hopeful, to proclaim the good news, and more importantly, to live as if it were true.
So, brothers and sisters, fear not. He has risen. Indeed.