I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:4-7 NRSV
In these three verses, Jesus tells us two seemingly contradictory things: fear God but don't be afraid.
For the early persecuted church, I think these were powerful words that were helpful for them and necessary to keep them as confessing believers of The Way. They were not to be afraid of those who can physically harm them. Jesus tells them not to be afraid of pain, loss, torture or death. They were not to let any of those things lead them to reject Christ, to confess in front of witnesses that they really did not believe in Jesus as their savior. Rather, they were to be afraid of the One who can guarantee pain and torment for all eternity.
Don't be Afraid
Jesus uses the example of sparrows to give courage. God doesn't forget even one of the many sparrows who were sold to be sacrificed to God - they became a pleasing offering to God! Therefore God will not forget Jesus' followers, all of them, down to the smallest atom. So, they should not be afraid because they were more valuable than those birds.
Of course, the birds were being sacrificed and it may be that they would be, too. Is that not the underlying meaning here? Stand up for your beliefs, show no fear - in fact, don't be afraid because God will take care of you. Not, however, to keep you alive. God will make sure you don't end up in hell!
The point seems to be to have fear for the correct one: God not other people. With this kind of fear, you can hold fast to your faith and your eternal life.
God, what am I to do with this idea that I must fear you? I am really struggling with this concept, God. Show me what to do with this. Thank you - Amen.
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims