Christianity Today (September ’16) featured the findings of a LifeWay Research survey that asked 2,000 people who do NOT attend church what would draw them to one. The results were revealing:
Skye Jethani, on the Phil Vischer Podcast, insightfully asked the following question while discussing this survey: What does it say about our deepest concerns and highest societal values that the number one draw for people to darken the doors of our churches would be a community meeting on neighborhood safety? I think it reinforces the fact that we live in a fear-mongering, paranoid culture where many feel uneasy, afraid, anxious about our safety and we are committed to providing safer environments in which to live and raise our children.
No doubt, these are troubling times. Global terror has become a threat on our own shores, in our own cities. Mass school shootings are too common. Racial tensions are high and there’s a growing lack of trust in those called to protect us (e.g., police officers). I heard a radio ad today warn me that a home burglary happens every 16 seconds and I ought to invest in home security cameras to alert my smart phone every time anyone steps onto my property.
But I have a newsflash: Threats to human safety is not a new thing! Ever since the first the crafty serpent trespassed in the Garden of Eden, human beings have been at risk for theft, personal harm, pain and suffering. We live in a fallen world.
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians addresses anxiety head on. Now, its important to remember he didn’t write from a comfortable office at the city hall calling a meeting on neighborhood safety. He wrote the following words from a dirty prison cell, probably bandaged from unjust beatings, and his own life hanging in the balance. (He would be put to death by beheading eventually.)
His audience were living in far more troubling times than we. They were facing far harsher persecutions and had far more to fear than we do. So, with this background in mind and with our own society’s epidemic of fear, anxiety and general uneasiness on the front page of our consciousness, let’s read one of Paul’s most famous passages:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7)
Overfamiliarity breeds unfamiliarity. We’ve read this so many times as to now gloss over it without really grasping the profound message. Don’t let this passage become watered down Christianese or an empty cliche. Let it ring out fresh today, and let its rich contents wash over your troubled, anxious, fearful and comfort-seeking soul. Continue reading A Non-Anxious Presence in an Anxious World