When we think about what we want out of our life, these two words rarely come to mind. I remember learning in a psychology class about our hierarchy of needs, with physical needs like food and rest being the most basic, closely followed by safety needs. Deeper needs of meaning, the theory says, can be met only when those more basic ones are met first. Even when we move on to focus on more meaningful needs, those basic needs can take back focus and attention when they’re not met.
Haven’t we seen that happen in spades this spring? We seem to have almost completely let go of those “higher” purposes in life because we are genuinely concerned for safety and security, reading stories about food supply chains and who is vulnerable to this virus.
In this context, I’ve both chuckled and wept when I’ve heard Christian leaders say that it’s okay to ignore safe practices because Christians are not afraid. It seems that some folks have decided that the opposite of fear is irresponsibility or recklessness. Fear or lack thereof won’t change the power of this virus and the risks with which we are presented as we confront it.
Fear is not always a bad thing for us. Fear can be born out of a deep concern for others’ well-being and motivate us to put aside some of our personal needs for the greater good. For Christians, in fact, the opposite just is not the case: we do not put ourselves and others at risk because of our needs or desires for things to get back to normal.
So, yes, Christian life always bears risk, and fear often accompanies that risk. Christians know that ultimately, we need not fear any adversary because, ultimately, God triumphs. In the meantime, though, we carefully weigh the risks of our actions, especially the risks to which our actions expose others. We have already read about churches that quickly began in-person worship and just as quickly stopped again when several households came down with COVID-19. I will be quite happy if I never hear the words, “Yeah, I got COVID-19 at my church” from anyone here.
We will continue to watch, to pray, to weigh the risks over against our deeper needs for relationship, connection, tangible witness. We will continue to lay our fears and our needs before God and rest in God’s strong and nurturing Spirit. We, as people of abiding faith, will experience the clear and strong presence of God that will carry us through these times of unmet needs.