In a September 16, 1991, editorial, Christianity Today editorialized that fear has its place—but it must not be controlling.
Fear was designed by God to give our bodies the sudden bursts of strength and speed we need in emergencies. But when fear becomes a permanent condition, it can paralyze the spirit, keeping us from taking the risks of generosity, love, and vulnerability that characterize citizens of God's kingdom. …
But, as it is said, just because you're paranoid does not mean they're not after you. The real question is whether, in the face of a challenge, the Christian reaction should be fear or something else. As the Bible says, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship" (Rom. 8:15).
That verse occurs in the context of one of the most confidence-building chapters in the Bible. And the confidence it builds is confidence, not in ourselves, but in God. The reasons Paul gives are capsulized in words that outline the nature of our relationship with God. We are "sons;" we are "loved;" we are "led by the Spirit," we are "predestined;" we are "elect;" we are "called according to his purpose." And in all this we are "more than conquerors."
The message of Romans 8 encourages neither "positive thinking" nor flight from reality. It lists graphically the challenges and obstacles we face: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword. But it finds confidence in a greater reality, the overwhelming love of God.
In an October 22, 1990, Christianity Today editorializedon growing racism and hatred following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. As we post this article, it is unknown who is behind today's attacks. But it is certain that many Americans are already blaming radical Muslim and Arab groups—and hatred seems to be a common theme on today's call-in programs:
When international disputes escalate to this extent, the church has a special responsibility to douse the flames of hatred here at home.
First of all, the church must apply its teaching that we all stand as individuals before God to the context of war and racism. The prophets Ezekiel (chap. 18) and Jeremiah (31:29-34) liberated their readers from the idea that spiritual standing before God was tied to family, clan, or race. The apostle Peter was also taught of the Holy Spirit that nationality makes no difference to God (Acts 10:34-35, 47; 11:15-18).
In wartime particularly, understanding the spiritual significance of the individual is important, for we tend to tar members of an enemy race with a milewide brush. Readers who have lived long enough will remember posters portraying the German "Hun" as a fearsome, subhuman menace. Such characterization is the standard way to run a war, but a terrible way to work for peace. The way to overcome hostility is to get to know individuals, and the church could help us do this. Through multi-ethnic fellowship we will learn that many who have family ties to our country's adversaries are loyal Americans. Arab-Americans may love their mothers' tabouleh, but most are as distressed as the rest of us by Hussein's hostilities.
Second, the church must be a channel of cultural and geographical information, even when the public schools are not. Because of their missions resources, many churches already have regular opportunities to put a human face on those who live in other cultures.
In the case of the Arab world specifically, the church can teach that Christianity has been a part of Middle Eastern culture since its beginning. (Why do we act as if Christianity started in America's Middle West rather than the planet's Middle East?) And that to this day there are strong, indigenous Christian communities there. Not all Arabs are Muslims. Not all Muslims are radical followers of crazed ayatollahs. (And, by the way, most Iranians are not Arabs.)
A little information like this would go a long way toward preventing hostility and promoting understanding in our own home towns.
Copyright © 2001 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Also appearing on our site today in response to the terrorist attacks:
Experts Say Spiritual Roots Will Aid in Coping With Catastrophe | Pray and connect with others, advise nation's chaplains.
God's Message in the Language of Events | In the face of evil, we must focus on keeping our hearts right.
Church Leaders Around World Deplore 'Unspeakable Horror' of Attack | Christians urged to unite in prayer as they unite in shock and denunciation.
For coverage of today's attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., see Yahoo full coverage.