FEAR IS MORE CONTAGIOUS THAN THE CORONAVIRUS
As reports about the spread of NOVEL COVID-19 (aka the Coronavirus) punctuate our news feeds between stories on the presidential primaries and the fluctuating stock markets, please know that nothing is ever as bad as THEY make it seem. Here are five truths about fear that can help you build up resistance to its viral nature.
Fear is a natural attention grabber.
When you are in danger, your body triggers a fight or flight response to help you face it. Kicking into high alert, you are ready to fight for your life or the lives of those you love or to run for your life until your safe. This is a God given, natural response. It is good.
The problem is not the natural response, it is that you were never meant to live in this heightened state of fear all the time. Exit the environment. Eliminate the fear. Go back to normal. But now this fear state is the new normal.
You live in a world where the threat level is turned up to eleven all the time. Your attention is constantly being grabbed by other things to be afraid of. The Coronavirus. Mass shooters. Racism. Trump. Bernie. The Russians. North Korea. Terrorism. Vaccines. Gun control. Climate change. The Illuminati.
The simple reason you are inundated with things to be afraid of is that fear gets your attention. “If it bleeds, it leads.” Now it’s not just the commercial for news at eleven that teases you with fear to get you to stay up and watch. It’s click-bait. Headlines, tweets, photos, video and articles shared by your friends (or at least your contacts). People you trust. So fear goes viral.
Fear is a powerful motivator.
Let’s face it. It’s a powerful motivator. You are more likely to buy a home security system or a gun when you are scared of a rise in crime. I used to sell water purifiers by telling people about the problems with their tap water. Fear is used to sell everything from vitamins to hand sanitizer. It is the main motivator in religious revivals and presidential primaries.
Ask yourself, “who stands to benefit from fear?” As my Dad was fond of saying, “Follow the money.”
Fear is highly contagious.
I love animal shows. As a kid, I wanted to be a wildlife photographer. It’s hard work getting up close to animals in the wild. Their fight or flight response kicks in and off they go. Have you ever seen a herd of prey being hunted by a predator? First the ears prick up. They look around. When one spooks and starts running, the whole herd is running.
Fear is contagious like that. It spreads quickly in social groups. It not only causes that flight response where they are running and screaming, but it causes that fight response as well. The contagious nature of fear also manifests in the outrage of the right and the left. The attacking, name calling and disrespect in our political scene is both a fear response and a fear inciting tactic of scared and insecure people. It’s contagious.
Love is the antidote.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:18–19, ESV)
Fear is ultimately incompatible with mature (perfect) agape love. This is the kind of love with which Jesus loved and gave his life for us. It is the cause of our ability to love maturely. As we reflect on his love for us displayed on the cross, where he chose to suffer for us rather than inflict suffering on us, it melts away our fear and replaces it with love. Our love for God and others is a response to his perfect love for us.
We become afraid when we focus on the what ifs. What if I get the virus? What if my kids get it? What if that person has it? The more we focus on the what ifs the more afraid we become.
If instead, we look at what great love God has for us and remember how much he loves us, we will be prepared to love God and others in the face of any threat.
“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31–39, NRSV)
What about the Coronavirus?
While love is the antidote to fear, it is not the answer to the Coronavirus. We must love first and last and in the middle be diligent to protect ourselves, our families and everyone else from a place of love. Whether it is COVID-19 or the common cold, loving our neighbor is a simple as doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Here are some simple ways you can prevent the spread of the virus and some things we are doing at Mountain View Church to love one another.
- Wash your hands often.
- Smile and nod instead of shaking hands.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
- Use the hand sanitizer provided.
- Avoid touching your face.
At Mountain View we are instructing our greeters, staff and children’s workers practice these basic hygiene measures during this time. We are also disinfecting everything in the kids area constantly, and changing how we serve donuts and communion to be more mindful of avoiding contamination. We will always do our best to protect everyone who comes to our church as if they were our own family. And love will always win out over fear.