Summary: In our scripture today, we see the temptation to choose flight over staying and fighting. One of the greatest tragedies of all, this is when the enemy wins, is when you begin to use faith for personal security and comfort. Our fear of really committing ou
[Re]sponse to Fear: Do It Afraid
One of the victims in the tragedy at Virginia Tech was a man named Liviu Librescu. He was a 77-year-old engineering professor and a Holocaust survivor. How people react in a moment of chaotic terror tells a lot about a person, because heroes always stand out in a crowd. They heard shooting and screaming in the hall and in the midst of chaos, immediately Professor Librescu ran to the door and braced his body against the door and yelled for his students to jump from the windows. The students ran to the windows, kicked out screens and dropped to the bushes below. As shots were coming through the door, Professor Librescu continued to yell to his students as he barricaded his body against the door. Bullets pierced the door killed him and one other student. That’s a leader. That’s the kind of man that I would want to be to my children. That’s the kind of man that I would want to be as your pastor. My question is, in that moment of chaos, in that moment of terror, what is in a person that makes them decide to either flight or fight? A majority of people in those moments of threatening terror are tempted to run and hide. So what makes the difference between choosing one over the other and how do you do that?
In our scripture today, we see that temptation to choose flight over staying and fighting from one of Nehemiah’s supposed friends, "Come on, Nehemiah, you’re going to die in this situation. Let’s run into the church and lock the door, where we will be safe." Many ancient peoples recognized a religious "right of asylum" in a sanctuary or temple, protecting criminals (or those accused of crime) from legal action to some extent. No harm or danger would fall upon them as long as they were on holy ground. In fact, this is how our word sanctuary came to mean a place of safety. So Nehemiah’s supposed friend tries to lure him to the temple to hide from his enemies. Many times people who you think are your friends are really your foe. One of the greatest tragedies of all, this is when the enemy wins, is when you begin to use faith for personal security and comfort.
The prevailing attitude of the culture toward the church is that the church does just this. We’re about and for ourselves and thus have become basically irrelevant to the needs of most people today. From their perspective, all we do is hang around in these little buildings where we have shut the door. We might not have actually locked the door, but, because of our irrelevance and inaccessibility, the door seems locked. We get together in our little religious clubs and have reduced the radical mission of Jesus to this little personalized salvation, safety and security thing. What do we mean when we say, "I’m saved!"? The rest of the world is going to hell, but I’m saved. We sing our songs and have our dinners and our bazaars, and at best, we pray for the world, we may even send some to help the needy but no one ever gets dirty. We insulate ourselves from the plight and pain of the world for whom Jesus died and in the process forget we’re at war for the soul of the world. Our fear of really committing ourselves to the radical purpose of Jesus, and not just play church, prohibits people from entering God’s saving purpose and presence.
I don’t remember much from high school biology but I do remember one term: homeostasis. Homeostasis is the tendency of a system or organism to remain the same. There is a great drive within us to stay the same. In fact, it’s said that most people don’t change untl the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. And that gets to the heart of fear. Fear is like the thermostat in my house. Throughout twelve months of the year, it is always set somewhere between 68-72 degrees. It doesn’t go under that or over that when we’re at home. Sometimes we’ll be lying in bed at night and I’ll say to Giovanna, "Did you turn the air up?" I can tell when the thermostat is above 70 degrees at night. If it is, I can’t sleep because, I don’t like to be outside of my comfort zone. To really commit yourself to the radical mission of Jesus Christ, and not just play church, has the same factor in our lives - it keeps us in our comfort zone. When you allow fear to control, it has lifelong repercussions. The desire for homeostasis is a powerful force in the life of every person’s life and every organization, including the church.