Fear Not

by Rev. Eric Folkerth

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On Sunday, you heard me share about my tattoo of the words “Don’t Be Afraid,” in Biblical Greek. I shared briefly about what it’s like to walk around with that on my arm every day.

The truth is, some days it’s a great comfort, and other days it’s a judgment and challenge.

Some days, when I am deeply fearful about some personal or world situation, it’s very comforting to look down and see the words “Don’t Be Afraid” stitched into my skin. I allow the words to sink in, and I start to breathe easier and rest in God’s grace.

Other days, I am in the same emotional place, except when I look down at the tattoo, I have a very different reaction. It get angry with myself for ever having gotten the tattoo. I argue with the tattoo.

“I WANT to be afraid today…I don’t feel like being brave…Stop judging my fear…Just leave me alone…”

These are some of the things I say back to my tattoo.

What I’ve discovered, however, is that these things I am speaking are not simply to the tattoo, but really to God. Those excuses, rationalizations, and justifications are really prayers of a sort. Prayers lifted out of my own insecurities.

The key moment of change always comes when I slow down. When I remember Jesus’ words, when he said “Can you add even an hour to your life through worry?”

No. No, you can’t.

In fact, medical science has pretty well shown that, if anything, we can *shorten* our life through excessive worry and anxiety.

As we said Sunday, Fear is a pervasive human condition…which is why it is such a constant Biblical theme. God keeps reminding us to “Fear Not” precisely because God understands this natural tendency to fear.

A situation made even worse because of national leaders and news/social media which stoke our fears to keep us connected. We have leaders now who don’t *calm* our fears, or assuage them. They pile-drive our fears with a sledge hammer of terrifying rhetoric. Religion that stokes fear is not the true religion of God.

God calls us to be a people who overcome our fears, so that we can show the world the way to get over its fears. We’ve got to find ways to come together —across racial, economic, political, gender and sexual orientation lines— and live together as human species. My sense of our faith tells me that learning to “Fear Not” is a key message of it, and one we’ll come back to time and time again.