“Faith, not Fear.” Perhaps you have seen the signs sprouting up in your area. Maybe you have heard or seen this repeated as if it were a slogan. The implication is that you can respond to the things that are going on in our country with either faith or fear. More to the point, I have heard this saying repeated as a challenge to open everything back up, particularly the churches. If we continue to refrain from in-person worship, then we must be responding with fear to the pandemic. If we wear masks, we must be fearful rather than faithful. If we live by faith, we can just live our lives without concern for the pandemic. In other words, faith and fear are defined by their actions in the face of the pandemic.
Yet we who profess to “walk by faith and not by sight” must answer a very important question. What do the Scriptures say?
First of all, the Scriptures are clear: “The just shall live by faith.” It is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that we are counted right in God’s sight. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” In short, we are saved through trusting in the person and work of Jesus Christ plus nothing else. Further, we are to live our lives trusting in Christ and the promises of God every moment of every day.
Integral to this saving faith is fear—fear of God, that is. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13b). This fear is not the terror that flows from unbelief. Rather it is giving God the respect, honor, reverence, and obedience that is due to Him as our God and Heavenly Father. Thus, the faithful are those who fear God, rather than man and created things.
But how does this faith show itself? Biblically, our faith is shown by our works. In James 2:18 we read, “I will show you my faith by my works.” But what works? Earlier, in verse 8, James says “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.” You see, our faith expresses itself through love, love for God and love for others. See Galatians 5:6 and Mark 12:28-31. This love is to reflect the self-sacrificial love of Christ, who did not demand His rights as God, but freely gave Himself up for our salvation. It is a love that truly looks out for the best interests of others, following the Golden Rule: “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” This can often mean that we will do things we would rather not do, but we do them out of love for others.
We are in the midst of a pandemic, in case you have not yet noticed. The responses of governments, groups, and individuals have varied widely. There has been lots of contradictory information, wildly mistaken predictions, and plenty of truly scary moments. In the face of it all, we who profess Christ are called to faith—to “trust in the Lord with all [our] hearts and lean not on [our] own understanding.” And we are called to express that faith through love towards our neighbor. That love might mean keeping your distance or wearing a mask just because you may have the virus, even though you have no symptoms, and you do not wish to give it to others. It might mean we delay the resumption of in-person worship longer than we would like. It could mean you stay home from church (when we resume in-person worship) just because you have a little sniffle. On the other hand, it may mean you befriend or help a neighbor, even though you are not wearing a mask and cannot keep six feet distance. Whatever the details, let us recommit ourselves to faith in Christ which expresses itself through love.