Selling Fear

While in college, a friend of mine introduced me to the music group REM. I liked what I heard and quickly listened to every album that was currently available. By far, one of the most memorable songs was entitled, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”

That song has been a soundtrack to the past nine months of my life and possibly yours. First, we were told daily that global warming was going to kill us all. Then came the coronavirus and Covid-19 to steal the headlines. Lately, the news has been about racial tensions, riots, and looting. That is not to mention murder hornets, hurricanes, tornadoes, gun violence, and mass shootings. Every day I scroll through the news, and all I can think is, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

Every day I am told to be afraid of the next big thing that is going to destroy us all. Honestly, it has been that way for most of my life. I have lived in fear of nuclear holocaust, acid rain, financial depression, war, the communists, famine, terrorists, Osama and Saddam, tsunamis, floods, wildfires, and the earth getting hit by a giant meteor. Almost without exception, there is a daily story about the end of the world as we know it.

Searching through the uses of the word fear in the New Testament will leave you a little underwhelmed. There is not much said about the followers of Jesus living in fear. Maybe that is because of something Jesus said stuck in their minds and guided their thinking. In the gospel story, according to Luke, he said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. (5) But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:4-5 – NIV 2011)

Jesus showed no real concern for the possibility of death. It was as if he treated it is an accepted fact for everyone. We are all going to die. He laid that alongside another fact: then we are going to face the judgment of God. This is restated by the writer of the book of Hebrews in chapter 9 verse 27; “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” Jesus and his followers are more concerned about the second part of the equation than the first.

The ultimate question is not, “When will I die, and what will cause it?” It is “How will God judge me, and where will I spend eternity?” That question will drive you to live in a way that pleases God. It does not lead you to buy more guns, build a shelter, or try to get better security. When we put fear in its proper eternal perspective, it will lead us to live more like Christ and not like those panicking around us.

REM’s song has an interesting next line. After they say, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” Then they sing, “And I feel fine.” When your eternity is secure, and you are living as the final judge tells you too, there is nothing to fear, no matter how much people try to sell it.

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