The recent murders and bombings in London and Egypt have not had their intended effects. Evidently those who instigated the bombings believed that they could engulf the Western world in fear and bring those societies to their knees. That has not happened. In spite of the terrible personal tragedies, people have responded with courage.
"We're not afraid" has become the slogan of the day. In fact, the website www.werenotafraid.com is worth visiting. It posts hundreds of photographs that people all over the world have sent in, affirming that they will not resign themselves to fear. This grass-roots response in defiance of terrorism's objectives is admirable.
In my life, however, confidence in the face of terrorism is more easily sustainable when supported by a strong groundwork of faith. God, the rock of our salvation, provides a platform that is more solid than that of human optimism. Words from the great Methodist hymnist, Charles Wesley, come to mind:
Soldiers of Christ, arise,
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies
Through His eternal Son.
- "Christian Science Hymnal," No. 312
Although written in 1741, the words have relevance today.
God supplies all our confidence, strength, and courage. We can remind ourselves of this every day, whether we are on the battlefield or on the commuter train, whether we are sitting in our office or out on patrol in the dusty streets of Iraq. It's a mental activity. It's inspired prayer.
Consciously aligning my thinking with the allness of God keeps me from drifting into apprehension or into an airy denial of the threat. Seeing extra security forces at public transportation sites in Washington, D.C., prompts me to be grateful for their vigilance and to affirm that as a soldier of Christ, I am armed with God's protection and am not a potential helpless victim.
An account of Jesus' life gives me something to ponder. He was in his hometown, Nazareth, commenting on a prophecy from the book of Isaiah. His statements so inflamed the congregation that it turned into a mob, intent on killing him. The Gospel of Luke reads: "And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way" (Luke 4:28-30).
From this spare narrative it's impossible to know what Jesus was thinking, but we can tell that he didn't struggle against them, and that somehow, at the point of greatest danger, he "passed through" the crowd unnoticed. His prayerful dependence on his Father, God, must have been so filled with confidence that he could no longer be a target for the mob's hate, and so he could no longer be seen as a threat. He moved on to Capernaum, evidently without fear or haste.
We, too, can tap into this reservoir of dependence on God. Jesus referred to himself as "the Way," and he expected his followers to imitate his example. We may not have the occasion to pray for a dramatic escape from a mob, but we can approach every security checkpoint at an airport or a building with gratitude and confidence.
Prayer might result in an intuition to avoid a commonly traveled street, or in bringing to someone's attention an unattended parcel. It might result in reassuring an apprehensive colleague about safety at work, or in an overflowing feeling of brotherhood impelling you to greet the neighbors of unfamiliar ethnicity and make them feel a part of the community. In any case, such prayer in Jesus' way contributes to the raising of the morale of our community.
Wesley's hymn exhorts:
From strength to strength go on;
O wrestle, fight, and pray;
Tread all the powers of darkness down,
And win the well-fought day.
The point is that a few moments of silent communion with God, affirming His all-power and all-presence, leads to a confidence that nothing else can, and this spiritually inspired confidence wisely guides our actions throughout our day as we move forward without fear.