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26 May 2017

Do not be afraid

Do not be afraid

Flavio Guaratto is Speak Up coordinator at the Alliance. 

Terrorism as a tool of war to further political objectives is not a new thing. It has been used in this way from the ancient to modern times. From January to May 2017, 608 terrorist attacks have been registered, according to the Wikipedia, across the world. From our own terror attack in Manchester this week to another attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt, killing at least 26 people.
Motivation of attackers vary, but the objective is almost invariably the same: to further a cause by provoking mass terror, generating collective fear and panic.
One of best known Bible stories illustrates this clearly: David and Goliath. The story in 1 Samuel describes the scene: "Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel: 'Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.' Then the Philistine said: 'This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.'" 
For me, verse 11 is key: "On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified." Goliath managed to establish a constant state of fear in the ranks of Israel. But it is when David turns up and changes things in Israel's favour that Christians are given three powerful, liberating and encouraging spiritual lessons when facing this horrible atmosphere of fear.
God's answer to liberate the nation came from a very unexpected source. The Church can be society's unexpected source of emotional stability, peace and comfort in times like this. There will be voices that try to silence the Church, which say that we have no say in this because in their view religion is the root cause of all this, therefore anybody from any religion should be quiet. But like David, we must continue to make our voice heard; our voice can surely make a difference.
Our weapons are of a different kind. Once permission to act was given, David refused to fight with Saul's armour, instead he chose his own weapon. David was an imperfect servant of God, who fought with imperfect and temporary weapons, but Jesus, the perfect servant king, inaugurated a completely new and revolutionary paradigm when he taught his disciples to turn the other cheek. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:4, reminds us that our weapons are not the weapons of the world, but that the Church fights hate with love, because love casts away all fear. Churches spread all over this country can pray and comfort those who are suffering, but also join society and government in the effort to find ways to build trust and lasting unity amongst communities in this country and in the world. 
We have an unexpected source of security. David's ultimate source of security was in the Lord, nothing else. He told Saul in verse 37: "The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine." We do have wonderful security forces in the UK, but this scripture and many others reminds us that the believer's ultimate source of security must be the Lord.
This is not to be naive, no one has easy answers to the problems that face us in these troubled and very complex times. Many are afraid of suffering and in their distress they ask for quick solutions and simple remedies. There are none. 
However, we must firmly believe that in God's redeeming love suffering people can find comfort in God; that people full of hate and revenge can discover in Jesus an irresistible grace that forgives the worst of sinners and accepts them just as they are, and those who are terrified can find fresh assurance God continues to be the unshakable rock of security, impenetrable shield of protection and everlasting source of salvation. 


Image: CC Michael Hirsch