Timely Perspective on Christian Fear and Health Care Reform

If you’ve been interested and engaged in following the health care reform debate, you’re probably aware that the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday and is scheduled to be signed into law this morning by President Obama.

Due in no small measure to this bill’s impact on abortion (on which see below), no doubt many Christians will consider this to be a dark day. That’s why Russell Moore offers some much needed perspective. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of several books, including most recently Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches. Consider the following excerpts from his blog post entitled “Don’t be Afraid”:

Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC? Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?

It’s not that I think Christians should be disengaged from issues of justice (God forbid!). It’s just that I wonder if we wouldn’t represent Christ and his kingdom better if we did it with a certain tranquility of Spirit, a tranquility that signals we’re not afraid of the rise and fall of temporal kingdoms and their policies.

The words “do not fear” and “don’t be afraid” are among the most common phrases on the lips of our Lord—in both Old and New Testaments—and on the lips of his angelic messengers. I wonder why?

Isn’t it because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18)? Isn’t it because we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom. 8:15)? Isn’t it because the Spirit prompts us not to “fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:6)?

Jesus doesn’t fear the crowds attempting to stone him. He doesn’t cower before Pilate. He isn’t afraid of the Sanhedrin. He’s confident and tranquil, even when he’s being arrested. But when he faces drinking from the cup of judgment of his Father, he sweats drops of blood.

If we were half as outraged by our own sin and self-deception as we are by the follies of our political opponents, what would be the result? If we rejoiced as much that our names are written in heaven as we do about such trivialities as basketball brackets, what would be the result?

So if what you’re afraid of is a politician or a policy or a culture or the future of Western civilization, don’t give up the conviction but give up the fear. Work for justice. Oppose evil. But do it so that your opponents will see not fear but trust, optimism, and affection.

Along with recommending that you read the whole post, I’d add only one nuance. Biblically speaking, it’s not wrong to demonstrate a significant emotional response for human sin (including our own). Jesus both became angry and wept at unbelief and the tragic consequences of sin (see Mark 3:1-6, Luke 19:41-44, and John 11:32-35). Acts 17:16 informs us that Paul’s spirit “was provoked within him” in response to the numerous idols he saw in Athens. Still, both Jesus and Paul demonstrated a remarkable and consistent trust that that God and his purposes will ultimately prevail, which is both in accordance with his promise and born out in countless examples throughout history.

As a result, I think it fitting to be not only provoked and grieved by the numerous idolatries and great tragedy associated with legalized abortion and its promotion, but also filled with hope and trust that, as serious as situations like these are, all is certainly not lost. That God is in control is a firm reality, not some pious platitude. And that is reason for both great hope and earnest prayer.

With the proper theological context hopefully established, I’ll close with the following update. Last week, I posted on the debate between proponents of the health care reform bill and a handful of pro-life Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak who were, at the time, opposed to its passage based on the abortion related language it contained. Stupak and others eventually voted to pass the bill, having negotiated President Obama’s promise to issue an executive order they assert will guard against federal funding of abortions. Sadly, however, it appears the executive order will do very little. Matthew Lee Anderson offers this FAQ rundown on the issue.

HT: Justin Taylor

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