26 Don’t be afraid of anyone! Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known. 27 Whatever I say to you in the dark, you must tell in the light. And you must announce from the housetops whatever I have whispered to you. 28 Don’t be afraid of people. They can kill you, but they cannot harm your soul. Instead, you should fear God who can destroy both your body and your soul in hell. 29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground. 30 Even the hairs on your head are counted. 31 So don’t be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows. 32 If you tell others that you belong to me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you are my followers. 33 But if you reject me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you don’t belong to me.Matthew 10:26-33
Sadly, some people live in fear all their lives. Stan Mooneyham tells of visiting a primitive tribe in the jungles of Papua/New Guinea that had never had contact with the outside world until the mid-1970s. Their culture was dysfunctional by any measuring stick. For centuries, they’d lived in jungle isolation by the law of payback, under which every slight or every wrong required retribution, usually a killing. If a man suspected another of stealing from his crops, he would hide beside a trail and kill the thief. This in turn required a revenge murder, which prompted further escalation in a never-ending cycle. The tribe had become so fragmented through fear of each other, that they were reduced to living in small, isolated family units. Life was a constant terror and hardship. One day they encountered a Christian from another tribe who told them that there was a new way to live–a way which he called “belesi.” We would call it “peace of mind,” but the transliteration from their dialect is “easy in the belly.” That’s an interesting way to put it. Living with no fear is living “easy in the belly.” This tribe that had been living by the law of payback asked for a missionary to come and teach them about living belesi. And when Mooneyham visited their small community on the banks of the April River, a missionary from Austria had already been living among them for a couple of years. Gradually, they were emerging from their darkness, coming into the light, learning to live by the law of gentleness and love instead of the law of payback. What a terrible way to live–in constant fear of your own neighbors, never knowing when a minor slight might launch a desire for the severest form of revenge. And yet many people today are living just this way–in constant fear, particularly in this time of uncertainty. What an awful way to live. But we don’t have to live this way. Jesus offers an antidote. The antidote he offers is a childlike trust in God. Jesus says to us, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you’re worth more than many sparrows.” Many of our fears would disappear completely, if we knew that we were loved, accepted, secure. Why do we fear? Isn’t it because there’s a great insecurity within our souls? How much more could we accomplish if we could be relieved of all our fears and anxieties? If we truly believed that God was with us? If we knew that what we do really matters and that we’d be accepted regardless of the outcome? What Jesus is saying to us is this: Don’t be afraid. God cares for the smallest sparrow falling from the sky. Surely, God cares for us!
Years ago, motivational speaker Patrick O’Dooley gave a seminar for a group of businesspeople in Galveston, Texas. As you know, Galveston is a city on an island. O’Dooley noticed that some of the seminar attendees had the letters “BOI” on their name tags. He learned that those letters stood for “Born on Island.” Evidently, it’s a mark of prestige to have been born in Galveston. Those people with “BOI” on their name tags hadn’t done anything to deserve their special status. They weren’t necessarily harder workers, or more dedicated, or smarter than anyone else. But they automatically received more respect simply because they’d been born on the island. Maybe you and I should have name tags that read BTC. “Belongs to Christ.” We’d wear these not for others, but as a reminder to ourselves of who we are. We belong to Christ. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. If we remember this, then we need never live in fear.
Ever Merciful God, we thank you for your constant love and care for us through Jesus. Help us to set our fears aside and trust completely in your gracious love. This we ask in Jesus name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
1. What is your greatest fear today?
2. How can trusting in God’s love and care overcome fear?
3. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” If this is true that God cares for us, then we don’t have to worry about things that might happen. How might you begin to give your worries and cares to God today?