THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – Do Not Be Afraid 21st June 2020
From the moment we are born we are immersed into a world of fear, we experience it as part of our survival, we are taught authority and respect through it, we are often controlled by it, which means we cannot hide from it or evade it, even with all the love in the world that could be bestowed upon us, fear is part of who we are.
Your ability to control its effects is what society likes to recognise as positive personal traits, such as confidence, assertiveness, tenacity or ultimately bravery. When you can’t control it, we may experience the negative attributes such as weakness, anxiety, avoidance or ultimately cowardice and these are often the labels awarded for perceived failure within society.
I cannot imagine there is anybody who has not ridden the ‘fear rollercoaster’ at some time or other in their life, the highs of conquering life’s challenges and the lows of them beating you. Failure though, should be seen as a normal and beneficial process to learning and advancement, it’s how we grow as human beings, but that is not how we always deal with it. Society doesn’t take well to failure or the person who owns it, judgement ensues, status value depreciates, self-worth often goes with it, followed by a huge helping of fast fading self-esteem. Nobody it seems, likes a failure.
The thing is, if we are honest with ourselves, we have all done the judging of others bit, deciding on what is success and what is failure in life, regardless of the ever present irony of fearing it being done to ourselves. Sadly it is this ever present fear of failure that can cause us to stall, U-turn or even completely avoid the difficult things in life, after all, better to be safe than sorry.
I often contemplate where the greatest sense of achievement would lie, with the person who overcomes their challenge on the first occasion or the person who picks themselves up off the floor several times, before finally overcoming theirs? What judgement or value would you place upon each of them as a person, according to your own values on success and failure?
Jesus is very aware of this apparently timeless human condition that surrounds the fear of tough challenges and also the fear of failing itself. In our Gospel reading today we hear Jesus preparing his disciples for the challenges that lay ahead and he’s not holding back on what they may face, but importantly also telling them why they need not be afraid when doing so.
‘Have no fear’ is the dominant message for the Disciples because for those in the world who have the power to wield fear as a weapon, it can only ever damage the body but it cannot defeat the soul because that belongs to God, that is the limit of earthly power.
We modern day Christians can experience criticism, mockery and dismissal of our faith, the fear of which may cause us to be very mindful of where and when we chose to proclaim it. This is where today’s reading (Mathew 10: 24–39) also reaches out to us to say ‘Have no fear’ because we are so precious to God that He will always be there for us whilst we acknowledge Him, but of course if we deny Him then so shall we be denied. I do not interpret this as God giving up on us, He would never do that, but instead, if you deny Him through words, actions or omission, intentionally or not, then the power that is His love for us, the Spirit that He sends to guide us, will somehow fade within you and with it the strength to prevail.
The world at this time is in political and social upheaval, people are calling for change for many reasons, governments and society are being called to answer difficult questions on matters of injustice, inequality and intolerance. Surely this has to be a time when Christianity influences such matters and is part of the desire to change the world for the better?
The Church should be visible on these matters and we need to be relevant in our influence for seeking change, one that speaks of peace and love for the world around us, one that defends the weak, that frees the oppressed and raises the disadvantaged. The Church though is often regarded as too passive in its approach to these issues to be any kind of force that creates change.
Peace and love are of course central to our doctrine, it is what Jesus commanded us to do but there is a danger that it will also cause us to refrain from protest, be reluctant to condemn or to stand up and be heard, especially if it has the potential to lead to conflict. In our resolve to extol peace and love we actually find ourselves steering away or avoiding anything controversially challenging, for fear of breaching our sacred commandment or the fear of ridicule in doing so. Jesus though was not one for avoiding that which would cause others to mock Him, plot against Him or eventually kill Him. He is an activist, a protagonist and a change maker for His time and He wants those whom He sends out to be the same.
“Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth, I have not come to bring peace but a sword” is a powerful and almost counter Christian statement to make, but it actually tells us that to bring about the creation of the Kingdom of Heaven, where we can have all the things that God wants for us, is not going to be easy and is sure to bring about conflict.
The sword as a metaphor is about such conflict, not physical violence, not aggression but the power of the word and it is so powerful it even has the ability to divide families. When you truly live the life of Christ you are asked to forsake all that you cherish in order to do so and so the use of the family as an example of potential collateral damage, will no doubt resonate deep within our human psyche and is no doubt the reason why Jesus used it. That in itself really challenges me personally, as indeed it should all of us, because it asks that very uncomfortable question “just what would you be prepared to sacrifice to live the life of Christ”? The answer to that question if you can face it, may then give you an understanding of “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me” because if it really is what you regard as your ultimate sacrifice, then it is sure to cause you personal pain, suffering and even humiliation for doing so and that will be your cross to bear. If you cannot or will not do it, how worthy then are you of the title Christian? Now there’s a thought for the week!
Like the twelve we are sent out as disciples to use the Word each and every day of our lives.
It has the power to create change for good, to take on and defeat the darkness of human cruelty and its indifference to injustice, the Word is our weapon of choice, let’s not be afraid to use it or of failing when we do.
Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it
a world where the weak are protected and none are hungry or poor,
Help us speak out against injustice, intolerance and inequality amongst all people of all nations.
Heavenly Father give us courage to prevail, give us strength to persevere and compassion in our hearts to show your love to the world.
Loving God be there for me when I fail as I shall be for others,
lift and comfort us when we fall.
Heavenly Father your beautiful creation is in turmoil and so we pray
that you bring it peace through the minds of its leaders
and the actions of its people.
Let your church be a beacon of hope that offers all who seek it
a way out of their personal darkness and into the light of your eternal love and grace.
We pray today for all the fathers in the world and give thanks for those that love, nurture and make sacrifices for their children.
We pray and give thanks for those fathers who are no longer with us but live on within our hearts and minds,
We pray and give thanks for all the men who are not fathers themselves but give the same fatherly care, thought and love to others.
We also pray for anyone who for very personal reasons may feel pain, sadness or heartache on Fathers Day
We ask that you bring them all peace, respite and comfort today.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour