I’m determined to continue studying the Biblical command “Do not fear,” but I’ve run into a road block. A mind block. Six books into the Bible (beginning with Joshua), and I’m only finding verses where the context of “do not fear” is enemies.
Now the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. (Joshua 8:1)
“Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. (2 Chronicles 32:7)
When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
Battle, conquest, even the wholesale slaughter of people groups as Israel takes and keeps the promised land. These stories need more context than I have the time to present.
But more importantly, I find myself in a world where culture and even the church regularly tells me who my enemies are: Whom I should hate, who I am against, who is evil and with whom we should do battle.
I believe the Bible is God’s Word and we should be guided by it. But I’m not sure I want ancient cultures naming enemies for me, or prescribing my response to the enemies I might have. I have to follow Jesus in these things, and He leads in a different way.
And frankly, in a week when I’ve had to take a break from the news, from the sound of gunshots in schools and deep divisions over how we can curb the violence breaking out among us, I don’t want a Bible study that is centered on war and naming people as my enemies.
I’ve been agonizing over what to do with these verses, nearly deciding to skip them and move on to less conflict-ridden passages. And then I realized there is an important lesson here on my journey to being free from fear.
There is evil in the world, and I know there are enemies.
But in my Lent reading I hear Jesus, in His last hours, saying
Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:52)
And nearly at the moment of death at the hands of His enemies,
Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Evil is real and we do have an enemy. We wake up every day to news of violence and division, heartbreak in the world and in our own homes.
But we also have the command, the call and invitation to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
There may not be any area in my life where I need to hear the Father’s “Do not be afraid” more than in the context of loving my enemies and facing the violence in our world.
Perhaps if I received the Father’s “Do not fear”, I’d be less likely to see people as my enemy. Perhaps I’d be more likely to look to God, who is my defense and help as sure as He was centuries ago, in the days of Jehoshaphat.
You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17)
Holy Father, we do have enemies, an enemy.
Help us to see clearly, to define people as you define them.
Show us how to fight, and how to be brave.
And Jesus, would you lead us, let us be guided more by Your words and actions, lead us not in the way of warfare, but in the way of the Cross.
This post is the latest in the NO FEAR Devotional Series. If this resonated with you, check back every Tuesday, and read the previous posts in the series here.