AfraidA couple of days ago, the following quote was credited on Twitter to American pastor Jonathan Martin:

The heart of God toward us, the whole message of Scripture, is summed up in four words: Do not be afraid.

Is Martin right, or is this just a bit of theological wishful thinking?

I’ve read estimates to the effect that the Bible contains around 360 instances of the words “fear not”. I don’t whether that number is entirely accurate, but even if it isn’t, I think we can safely assume that there is a strong emphasis in scripture on not being afraid.

As well as the witness of scripture, there is also the witness of life lived. Anyone who’s old enough to have been around the block a few times knows well enough that fear is a feature of the human landscape.

Of course, I’m not talking about healthy, normal fear, such as the fear of being burnt if you put your hand on a hot kettle. I’m talking about the paralysing, debilitating fear that prevents us from being who we could and should be.

Think about this: God knows no fear. That, I hope, is an uncontroversial statement. Now think about this: we are made in the image of God. Does that not surely mean that God’s original blueprint for us, as bearers of his divine DNA, is to live unafraid?

And yet we are afraid. We live in fear of…

…sickness
…financial hardship
…failure of all kinds
…misunderstanding
…judgement
…disapproval
…criticism
…exposure

…and I could go on. But I’m confident these are all things with which you’ll be more or less familiar.

It seems to me, then, that in exhorting us so often not to be afraid, the scriptures recognise something that is deeply embedded in our condition as what Scot McKnight calls cracked eikons.

Tomorrow I shall try to offer some thoughts on where this pervading fear comes from. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

[ Image: Pablo Municio ]