Nothing to fear but fear itself

Published 9:15 am Friday, April 8, 2011

Across the Pastor’s Desk

By the Rev. Kenneth A. Jensen, Retired ELCA pastor, Albert Lea

“Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” -John 11:16 (NIV).

Thomas often gets a bum rap. He is best remembered as “doubting Thomas” for his initial response to the other disciples’ report that they had seen the risen Christ. Whether his need to see for himself was the response of cynical unbelief or “Hey! This news is too good to be true,” remains in the eye of the beholder.

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However, here we meet a brave and fearless Thomas willing to face martyrdom out of loyalty to his master. Thomas was confident the ministry and teachings of Jesus would continue to transform the hearts and lives of people should Jesus and the Twelve experience a premature death.

I’ve thought a lot about this lately. I have a faint childhood memory of President Franklin Roosevelt. As we entered World War II, he addressed the nation offering a word of hope saying, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.”

Today, politicians have turned an about face. They play the “fear card” painting the opposition in shades of gloom and doom while presenting themselves as “saviors” of the people. Talk radio and cable news commentators on Fox and MSNBC continually fan the flames of anxiety and xenophobia. Is there anyone among us who is willing to exemplify a brave and fearless Thomas?

What disturbs me most is when the church-at-large falls into the trap of fear mongering. Christians confess to believe “Jesus is Lord.” But many are afraid we will be governed by an Islamic caliphate one day and be subjected to shariah law. Have we dismissed the Biblical promise: “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” — 1 John 5:5 (NIV)? Are our fears stronger than our faith?

We profess Jesus has gone to “prepare a place for us.” Yet, discussing the option of palliative care versus aggressive medical treatment at the end of life is called a “death panel.” Why opt out for the most expensive, least comfortable option, in the vain hope of extending life a few more days?

After all, we claim to believe in the “resurrection of the body” and God’s promise of eternal life. Are our fears stronger than our faith?

Scripture informs us: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” — 1 John 4:18 (NIV). Thomas loved his Lord, loved Jesus to the point of being willing to die so strong was his faith in Jesus’ mission to transform the world. We may not be called upon to die for Jesus, but maybe we would be a little less fearful if we dared to practice faith in love.