There’s been almost endless talk of living in fear versus living by faith over the past nine months. It is a dichotomy that offers Christians the chance to buckle under the pressures of culture or stand strong in their faith.
Well, I choose to stand strong. The most immediate example of this is refusing to wear a mask. More than 300,000 Americans have died due to an infectious disease spreading at its most rapid pace yet, and science has established that wearing masks significantly lessens the risk of spread.
But I don’t trust science; I trust Jesus.
It’s not just culture that shames me for my faith; the government has the audacity to make restrictions on my freedom to live by faith. But I won’t let sacrilegious government laws get in the way of my faith. I don’t trust laws; I trust Jesus. So many (though not all) of these next things will include violations of the law. I’m willing and eager to do so based on my religious convictions to live by faith and stand for Jesus.
I will no longer wear a seat belt while driving. A seat belt is a safety measure that anticipates a crash. But I trust Jesus will take the wheel and protect me. Further, I have a three-month-old daughter. Not only will I not put her in an infant car seat, I will not strap her in with any sort of seatbelt, and she will sit in the front seat. And you better believe we’re not adhering to any of those fear-based speed limits. We’ll go as fast as the car can go. Because I don’t live in fear.
I will not purchase any guns to protect myself or my family. Nor will I install any sort of security system in my home. Actually, I won’t even lock my door; in fact, I’ll leave it wide open 24/7. No smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, or fire extinguishers, either. I don’t need them. I live by faith that Jesus will protect me. I don’t live in fear.
This next one should be obvious, since I’ve already established that my trust isn’t in science: I will not go to the doctor for any reason, ever. And I’m not just talking about for myself, but also for my daughter. Doctors rely on worldly science and medicine. I trust the divine healer. I don’t live in fear.
One thing I’ve learned in my three-plus months as a parent is that there are warnings and guidelines about everything. Apparently, everyone lives in fear that children are somehow going to be harmed. But I trust Jesus, and worldly harm doesn’t scare me. So I will not use any sort of child-proof materials to protect my daughter. Further, I will not worry about making sure she is wearing enough clothes on cold days, keep her away from plastic bags, electrical sockets, etc., or pay attention to make sure she doesn’t roll off the couch, bed or table. Cribs? Who needs them? That’s a prison, and my child will not live in a prison. She gets a real bed from this point forward. Am I worried she might fall and get hurt? No. I don’t live in fear.
I’ve always hated all the obnoxious food handling regulations, and it always leads to meat being overcooked and too dry. All of that is fear-based living. From now on, I’ll just eat meat raw. And no need for oven mitts to get food out of the oven. God will protect my hands from burning. I don’t live in fear.
This mindset is completely liberating. Any concept of financial self-restraint is fear-based. I don’t do that. If I want something, I buy it. Max out all the credit cards, because God will provide. I don’t live in fear.
The next time I go to the zoo, I think I’m going to climb into the cages and give each of the animals a hug. They look cute and cuddly, and I know Jesus will protect me. This whole idea of creating barriers between them and us “for safety” reeks of fear-based living. And I don’t live in fear.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ve seen the sheer ridiculousness in logical approach being taken by the “faith versus fear” mindset throughout this pandemic experience. If we’re truly unwilling to do something as minorly inconvenient as wear a mask to protect ourselves and (far more than ourselves) those around us and claim it’s an example of “living in fear,” then that attitude should disqualify the vast majority of actions we take in our daily lives that involve far greater inconveniences based on an effort to minimize risk.
Beyond the logical fallacy, it is theologically unsound as well. A very direct comparison would be when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. Matthew’s account has the devil’s second temptation literally quoting scripture to suggest that angels would protect Jesus from harm if he jumped from the highest point of the temple (quoting Psalm 91). I did not use a comparable example above, but I easily could have (such as jumping off the ledge of the Grand Canyon or the Empire State Building).
Jesus doesn’t jump. But it’s not because he lives in fear; it’s because he lives by faith and respects God:
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” -Matthew 4:7
The faith versus fear argument is a false argument. One of the most famous Proverbs states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). How do we read that if we are convinced all fear is bad?
We acknowledge that in that message, fear speaks to a healthy, honest respect for something far greater than ourselves. It is similar to the fear we should live our lives with on a daily basis when we engage with materials that can cause harm. Every time we get behind the wheel of a car, we absolutely should have a healthy, honest respect for the fact that this machine wields the potential for serious death and destruction. It should prompt us to make conscious choices to drive safely and responsibly, in an effort to protect ourselves and others.
COVID-19 has already taken the lives of more than 300,000 Americans, and that’s only the official count. While it mostly impacts people with underlying health issues or who have reached a certain age, it has taken the lives of people from every demographic (further, as followers of Christ, we’re explicitly called to care for the elderly and sick among us, so we should be particularly concerned about protecting them from this disease). We absolutely should fear this disease; we must acknowledge its dangers and respond in a responsible way.
In no way does that contradict our faith, just like wearing a seatbelt doesn’t indicate a lack of faith. Rather, it takes a prudent approach to the dangers of life and seeks to not put God to the test.
As evidenced by my (admittedly ridiculous) examples above, a life lived without any amount of fear is not a life that reflects the self-control, responsible living we are called to as Christians. It instead showcases recklessness, arrogance, and selfishness – how many innocent bystanders are unnecessarily put in harm’s way if I drive 120 miles per hour down the road, don’t properly prepare food, or willingly step out into public during a pandemic without taking steps to shield them from any germs I may have?
Perhaps the next time someone asks us to put on a mask and our natural instinct is to get on our self-righteous soapbox about how we live by faith and not fear, we should reconsider two things: first, do our lives really reflect living without fear (and do we really want them to?), and second, is that actually how Jesus would respond?