We Are Not Afraid
- Written by Jody Vickery Jody Vickery
- Published: 08 November 2017 08 November 2017
What’s the opposite of fear? Courage? It is an excellent candidate, but it’s not the answer. Mark Twain said “Courage is resistance to fear . . . not absence of fear.” Ask any hero, “Were you afraid when you charged into that burning building . . . . when you ran toward the sound of the gunfire .
. . when you stood up to that bully?” They will tell you, without exception, “Yeah. I was scared to death.” But they did the heroic anyway. Courage is what we do in spite of our fear.
So if it isn’t courage, what is fear’s opposite?
In John 20, the fear-filled disciples had bolted themselves behind locked doors. They had witnessed every shocking second of Jesus’ arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion. Post-traumatic stress was still centuries away from being a named condition, but they were surely experiencing it. A footfall in the hall outside the locked door caused their hearts to race. The innocuous shout of a passerby on the street jolted them to attention.
Jesus had calmed a sea storm and walked on water. He had healed the sick and fed thousands with little more than the contents of a lunch box. He had restored sight to blind eyes, returned music to deaf ears and raised the dead back to life. If he could not avoid the gruesome death of a cross, they stood no chance at all.
Then Jesus appeared. He materialized before their very eyes. And the first thing he said was, “Peace be with you,” (vs. 19). It’s also the second thing he said (vs. 21). And the third (vs. 26). Peace. The opposite of fear is peace. But it’s not just the absence of conflict. The word Jesus spoke to his frightened disciples was as broad-shouldered a word as you’ll find anywhere in the Bible. Peace means health, safety, well-being, prosperity, wholeness, harmony and tranquility.
In the weeks, months and years that followed, these men would no longer hide behind locked doors. They would fearlessly testify before rulers, refuse to be silent when threatened with death, defy orders to stop preaching, and speak truth to power. Their courage astonished even their enemies, (Acts 4:13). But their courage was born of peace – that deeply rooted sense that death is a defeated enemy, a toothless threat, an impotent adversary.
Last Sunday morning, Christians at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church gathered, as they always did, to worship. Before the service was over, nearly half the church would be dead. The next day, a news reporter in our town left a voice mail asking me how this horrific event was going to affect our church in Huntsville. We were not able to connect before the evening news broadcast, but if we had, this is what I would have told her:
This Sunday morning, the doors of stately cathedrals in the nation’s largest cities will swing open to welcome the faithful. Fluorescent lights will shine through the storefronts of start-up churches. The parking lots of warehouse-sized mega churches will teem with activity. Deacons will sweep the leaves off the front steps of sturdy old red-brick churches on small town main streets. And this Sunday, the Christians at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church will meet, as they always do, albeit in a different building. But they will meet.
We are heirs to people like Stephen, Polycarp of Smyrna, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nate Saint, Jim Elliott and many other Christians who faced death with the peace of Christ. This coming Sunday, our church buildings will be open and Jesus will be among us. He will say to us, “Peace be with you.” So we are not afraid.