Fear knows no boundaries. Last week our television screens showed us President Donald trump grasping the hand of Prime Minister Theresa May.
Was it a gesture of affection, we wondered, by a tactile President? Aside from personal chemistry, it seems the President suffers from Bathmophobia, the fear of stairs and slopes.
The Prince of Wales also has a secret fear. It has been revealed that when on his travels, his aides always carry freshly-laundered towels for the royal hands. When forced to obey a call of nature, the Prince refuses to use hot-air dryers. Such dryers, it seem pick up germs from around the room and blow them about. So now you know!.
Fear, like fire, can be a marvellous servant but a terrible master. Fear is an alarm system, warning of approaching danger. It is a wholesome emotion, making us careful when crossing the street, and ensuring we obey doctor’s orders. But often fear can paralyse action, and restrict the enjoyment of life. Those who are afraid of flying, for instance, live a life which is self-constricting.
One of the prime sources of fear is guilt. However we interpret the details of Genesis chapter 3 (Adam and Eve , the serpent and the apple etc), one truth emerges; that guilt and fear follow misbehaviour. When God next addressed the couple with his question ‘Where are you?’(Genesis 3; 9), Adam confessed, ‘ I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid, and I hid myself’ (vs 10).
Guilt brings fear in its wake; fear of being found out, and fear of the consequences of what we have done. ‘Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind’, as Shakespeare wrote in his Scottish play.
For that feeling of guilt, Christ has the answer, in his word to every penitent, ‘Your sins are forgiven you.’
And for the other haunting fear, that this world is meaningless and purposeless, Jesus also has an answer. He assures us that this is God’s world, even though it may seem that ‘truth is ever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.’
He frequently told his disciples not to be afraid. In a cluster of verses in Matthew chapter 10 verses 26-31 he presents reasons why we should not fear.
In God’s world, he says, truth will always prevail. ‘There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed’(vs 10). Besides, what really counts is upright character. Even if men should kill the body, they cannot touch the most important part, the soul, that part which is the essence of personality. A life devoted to good cannot be destroyed, though the body may perish. And best of all, God cares. ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered’
With a God who cares for us so intimately, why should we fear?