A friend posted this quote on Facebook: "What is needed, now more than ever, is leadership that steers us away from fear and fosters greater confidence in the inherent goodness and ingenuity of humanity."
The speaker is former president, Jimmy Carter, someone I admire.
And I agree with him that we need leaders who refuse to be afraid or nurture fear among those they are called to lead.
But I disagree with the notion that we can have confidence in the "inherent goodness" of the human race.
The Bible teaches that human beings, while certainly capable of great ingenuity (something I talked about yesterday), the human race does not possess an "inherent goodness." The Bible teaches that we are all born in sin. In other words, we come equipped with an orientation for not loving God or loving neighbor, unless it suits us. Sin--looking out for number one--is our default mode.
You don't have to look far to confirm this truth. We have, as C.S. Lewis wrote, "inside information" on the reality of our sin condition. We need only do an honest self-assessment to see that if we rely on our own "inherent goodness," let alone the "inherent goodness" of the whole human race, we would be in trouble.
But in what I described yesterday as "this fearful and apprehensive" age, we need not fear.
I think that there are three reasons to flush fear from our lives.
First, despite all the insanity and evil in our world, the God we know in Jesus Christ is still in control.
"In this world you will have trouble," Jesus says. "But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The world will do its worst, but sin and death will not have the last say. Jesus has come into the world so that all who will turn from sin (repent) and trust in Him as their only hope, will belong to God through all the turmoil of this world and, in total perfection, in eternity. Jesus has conquered every trouble and every fear that this world can throw at us.
Second, the God we know in Jesus promises to be with those who follow Him, always.
"I am with you until the close of the age," Jesus says to those who follow Him in Matthew 28:20. "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” we're promised by God in both Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5. And in Psalm 27:1, King David asks rhetorically: "The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?"
Third, the thing that our sinful natures fear the most is our own deaths; for those who repent and believe in Christ, that fear has been taken off the table.
Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die" (John 11:25-26). And these words are backed up not only by the miraculous signs of Jesus capacity to make on good on this promise when he brought the dead back to life, but by his own resurrection, an event confirmed by more than 500 people.
It is, maybe, this last point that gives us the greatest courage in facing our fears. Belonging to the God we know in Christ, Who has conquered my sin and the sins of the world, Who has conquered death for all who believe, sets me free to live without fear. We can pray without fear. Worship without fear. Love without fear. Change the world without fear. Stand up to injustice and bullies without fear.
We can do all of that because, even if we get killed by the things that others fear, we know that we belong to Jesus for all eternity.
"It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes," Psalm 118:9 says. Don't rely on leaders to take away your fears. Civil leaders have an important role in securing safety and justice for a country's citizens, but none can erase all fears. No one can be relied on to take our fears away.
And we can't rely on human goodness or ingenuity either. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Our inborn sin is too quick to offer us reasons for being afraid and faulty solutions for overcoming our fears. Proverbs 3:5 warns us: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding."
We don't have to be afraid for three big reasons: 1. The God we know in Christ is in control. 2. The God we know in Christ promises to always be with us. 3. The God we know in Christ has taken our number one reason for fear, death, off the table.
Lean on Christ.