Fear Not for the Body
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28
Much ink has been spilled about the political polarization in our country. Some researchers at Yale may have found a solution: they discovered that when people holding traditionally conservative views engaged in an intense imagination exercise in which a genie granted them absolute physical safety, within minutes they began to think like their more liberal counterparts.
It turns out that being afraid for ourselves or our families’ physical safety makes us more conservative. If only we could all feel safe all the time, we would finally get along!
Some churches preach fear as a core value. They overstate or fabricate the dangers of the world, promising safety if their adherents shun the right people, pray the right prayers, and submit to a rigid social hierarchy. Other churches preach a safe and comfortable God to shelter people’s spirits amidst the birth-pangs of a turbulent society where everything seems to be changing.
Both of these church types are in the grip of a heresy. God is not safe. God may be good, but God never promised us absolute physical safety and security. Just look at the example Jesus gave us. They started trying to kill him as soon as he was born, and they didn’t quit until they succeeded.
What fears do we submit to in ways that translate into suffering for others (and ourselves), and submit our souls to a living hell?
What if, like Jesus, we could so come to terms with the fact of our mortality that we didn’t have to be afraid of anything anymore?
God, may I love you so much that I love nothing else too much. May I fear you enough that I need fear nothing else at all.
Stillspeaking Small Group Discussion
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.