Fearless Living in a Fear-filled Society

Karen VanTil Gushta

If you were to take a guess at what Americans fear most, what would you suggest? A terrorist attack? Cancer? Not having enough money for retirement?

If you guessed “terrorist attack” you’d be close. That is Americans’ second greatest fear according to a survey done in October 2016 by Chapman University. But the number one fear identified by the survey of a “cross section of more than 1,500 adults” was “corruption of government officials.” This was also listed as the top fear in the 2015 Chapman survey. In case you’re interested, here’s the rest of the list: #3) not having enough money for the future, #4) being a victim of terror, #5) government restrictions on firearms and ammunition, #6) people I love dying, #7) economic or financial collapse, #8) identify theft, #9) people I love becoming seriously ill, #10) the Affordable Health Care Act/Obamacare.

Interesting list—and one wonders just how this “cross section of 1,500 adults” was determined. Fear of death; fear of going to hell—we might think those would show up on this list, but apparently Americans aren’t thinking about death, dying, or the afterlife. Their concerns are focused pretty much on living in the present—and on what our government is doing.    

As believers we may not share these same fears. However, can we say we are living fearlessly in our fear-filled society? What does that look like? Some of the most striking examples are those Christians who have responded fearlessly to situations that would cause many of us to crater in fear.

Thanks to Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, Samaritan’s Purse, Frontline Missions International, and others, we are now able to get news of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Their stories are heart-wrenching as they are suffering torture, imprisonment, and even death for the sake of Christ. We cannot turn a blind eye to their plight.

However, there is work to do here at home in America as well. We don’t even hear about all the cases of Christians who are facing opposition for standing for their Christian beliefs. But there are a number who serve as shining examples, for they have fearlessly refused to compromise their Christian faith and beliefs in spite of persecution for those beliefs.

The cultural flashpoint in our nation today is undoubtedly marriage and sexuality. Speaking out or taking a stand for biblical marriage has brought retribution and persecution to a number of believers. Those who uphold this view in their workplace or publically are likely to suffer economic loss, professional ostracism, job loss, or experience public campaigns of vilification in the media. The list of those who have suffered in this way is growing, but two of the most egregious cases are the following:

  • Barronelle Stutzman, a florist, was sued by the ACLU and the attorney general of Washington state for declining to provide flowers for a friend’s same-sex wedding. The state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that held Barronelle personally liable for violating a state anti-discrimination law. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes on Barronelle’s case and reverses the state court’s decision, she may lose all her business and personal assets except her home.

Melissa and Aaron Klein of "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" lost their business, were fined $135,000, and were told they could not speak publically about their decision not to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding in 2013. Commissioner Brad Avakian of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries took action against them without giving the Kleins any opportunity to defend themselves in court. In addition, according to CBN News, “Avakian made multiple public comments on Facebook and in media interviews indicating that the Kleins ‘disobey[ed]’ the law and needed ‘rehabilitation.’” On March 2, 2017, the Kleins were finally able to defend themselves in the Oregon Court of Appeals. As of this writing, the court has not released its decision.  

If you were in Barronelle Stutzman or Melissa and Aaron Klein’s position, how would you respond?

Perhaps it is time for every believer in Jesus Christ and the Bible’s teaching on marriage to prepare to respond on this issue. Perhaps you will be challenged to say something to a friend or family member. Or perhaps you will be challenged in your workplace or even attacked by a government official or sued. Regardless of where this topic may come up, we should be prepared to communicate the truth of God’s Word with love and without compromise, “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).

In his book, Living Without Fear, in the chapter “Fear Not,” Dr. D. James Kennedy said: 

. . . we can learn from the apostle Peter about handling trials and fears and anxiety. He says in 1 Peter 5:9-10, “Knowing that the same afflictions are experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. But after you have suffered a little while, the God of All grace, who has called us to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus, will restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.” We need to see that the trials that cause us to become so anxious are necessary and they are universal. We are not all alone, facing the hostile and cold and unfeeling world as the humanist thinks, but this is our Father’s world and whatever comes to us, comes to us from the loving hand of our Father as a test for our faith.

Are we going to accept it with anxiety and fear? Or are we going to accept it in faith, knowing that God is trying to strengthen us in our walk with Him; knowing that the things that we worry about are necessary, and that God is trying to teach us that great lesson of trusting in Him—whatever comes to pass.

Whatever trials we face, we have this assurance from God, “. . . He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5b).