WONDERFUL THINGS: It is wise to take precautions over danger
Faith over fear is a motto we are hearing a lot during our uncertain times. It’s memorable, pithy and even has alliteration. Better than that, it is true — mostly (and we will return to the “mostly”). Those who love Jesus and rest in his Word know that our lives are to be lived in faith rather than in fear.
I did a quick search and found that some form of the command “do not fear” occurs over 130 times in Scripture. God wonderfully tells us, “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’” (Isaiah 41:13).
And Jesus reminds his followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Christians are not to be fearful people, not because we are just naturally courageous. Nor do we think we are immune from disaster or sickness. We are not to be fearful because we trust that our lives are upheld and directed by a sovereign and loving Father. There is nothing that can come upon us as God’s children that has not first passed through his loving hands (Romans 8:28).
As the Psalmist reminds us, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God whose word I praise; in God I trust” (Psalm 56:3, 4). Faith over fear. We desperately need this truth.
And yet ... and yet what concerns me is that some are taking this precious and comforting truth and turning it into a criticism of others — even a condemnation. Here’s what I mean. One Christian sees a brother or sister in Christ wearing a protective mask, and they think and maybe even say, “Faith over fear.” In other words, they must be wearing a mask because they are afraid (unlike me) of getting the coronavirus and not trusting God to care for them. Right? Well, maybe not.
Here’s the problem: such thinking does not take into account all of Scripture’s teaching on fear. The book of Proverbs seems to teach us that there is a type of fear that is not sinful, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3).
That is to say, it is wise if you see potential danger to take precautions. We teach our children with this kind of healthy fear. We tell them not to play in a busy street, because it is dangerous. We tell them to wear a seatbelt when they get in the car in case of an accident. I don’t know any reasonable Christians who say, “Look at the unbelief and fear of that person wearing a seat- belt. Look at the sinful fear of that child who won’t play in the street.” In the face of danger, we trust the Lord, and we take wise precautions as He enables us. We use means, and we trust God.
All this is to say, be charitable to one another. Wearing a protective mask or taking other
precautions during this pandemic is not necessarily a sign that someone is living in fear and not faith. And of course, taking no precautions is not necessarily an indication of one’s greater trust in the Lord (they may be trusting in their robust health). As one writer has recently put it, “Let’s be careful, then, that when we say ‘faith over fear’ we are making God’s promises feel big more than we are making our fellow Christians feel small.”
James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.