Driving through my community, I’ve noticed signs in front of homes that say, “faith over fear.” I’ve done a bit of research and found that people give different meanings to those signs. But whatever the sign’s meaning, the words make me think of the Apostle Paul. Specifically, for Paul, “faith over fear” was connected to spreading the gospel, the good news.
The good news is that in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, he becomes king of God’s new creation (see especially John 19:19-20, 23).
The good news is that God has called a people to live out the ways of his new creation as a picture and foretaste of what God is doing (see Ephesians 3:7-13).
The good news is that through Jesus’ death on the cross, we can have forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God. Being reconciled, we find our place in his church and his story that shows the world God’s plan of restoration and renewal.
When Paul lives “faith over fear,” he does it to spread the good news. He is willing to step into dangerous situations for the sake of the gospel. He is willing to risk beatings and hazardous journeys and shipwrecks for the sake of the gospel. He does so believing that living this high-risk life for the sake of the gospel is ultimately worth it because empires and nations and people need to live under and for and in relationship with the right king (see Revelation 15:1-5). He also believes that all he is investing and all he is suffering looks toward a greater glory,
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7–18 NIV11)
For Paul, faith over fear doesn’t mean being delivered from hardship or having things go his way or getting what he wants or being kept safe; it means stepping into whatever is before him so that he can spread the good news. His faith makes it possible to face the fears that could keep him from spreading the good news that Jesus is king.
Looking at the early church, it is clear they caught this idea of faith over fear. Although we could say, they shifted the idea a bit and moved to care over fear.
In his books on the early church, Rodney Stark points out that when plagues came into the cities, people would run, leaving behind even sick family members and friends. Many followers of Jesus, however, stayed. They exercised care over fear. They attended to the sick, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.
Stark notes the pastoral letter of Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria (c. 250 A.D) to his members, extolling those who had nursed the sick and especially those who had given their lives in doing so:
Most of our brothers showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead...The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that in death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal to martyrdom.
The Christian community exercised care over fear rooted in their faith in God’s promise of the resurrection.
Faith over fear. Care over fear—all in service of spreading the good news in word and deed.
How is your congregation stepping into fearful spaces filled with the hope of spreading the gospel?
How is your congregation living out care over fear?