Fear or Freedom?
In his book, “The Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky divides the world into two kinds of societies: fear societies, and free societies. Fear societies are tyrannies which rule by terrorising their subjects, by restricting freedom of speech and movement, by instilling fear so that people will not voice opposition to the rulers. Fear societies are controlled by tyrants who are not hesitant to brutalise their people in order to quash dissent.
Tyrannies, when allowed to persist, are a danger not only to their own people but to other nations as well. In contrast to fear societies, free societies provide their people with the ability to speak freely, to express dissent, to move about in freedom. Sharansky writes: “A society is free if people have a right to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm.” In a free society, a person may offer opinions without fear of being assaulted, imprisoned or murdered. A free society fosters diversity; it respects individual rights; it allows people to think and act freely. Whereas a fear society represses its people, a free society allows its people to grow and flourish. Whereas a fear society is ruled by tyrants and their henchmen, a free society is governed by the rule of law.
We are convinced that governmental encroachment on basic human freedoms constitutes a more intimidating threat to individuals, a greater impediment to the work of the church, and a larger calamity for all of society than any pestilence or other natural disaster. These are difficult times, calling for a thoughtful, biblical, and wise response from church leaders and their congregations. Unfortunately, discernment on this issue has been lacking for some time. Intense disagreements have swirled among evangelicals since March 2020 regarding how the church should respond to government-mandated COVID restrictions. The clash of opinions only compounds the bewilderment of Christians already confused by conflicting media reports, much of it centred on lies which fit the narrative that the governments of the world have been promoting. It has generated a firestorm of contention on social media, even amongst close friends and family members. And it has caused unexpected and unwelcomed division in churches.
But many would ask, "why should the church even be involved in matters of health? Shouldn't this role be left up to health experts and public policy advisers? If this was a matter of health, perhaps. But it is now clear that the agenda behind this public policy is no longer about health - it is about fear and control. We believe it would be negligent for any church to remain passive when obvious waves of disinformation are being unleashed upon the population all in an attempt to manipulate public consciousness and foment anxiety. Whatever the media claims they are publishing and airing, it is not informational truth - it has now become pure propaganda. Worse, the media will seek to punish anybody who does not fall into line with the promoted way of thinking - especially Christians who have politely declined the experimental gene therapy on offer. Yet, rather than accept that each person holds bodily autonomy, public health officials have exploited the public's fear in order to justify their war against those on the opposite side of the debate. Bottle shops and brothels were permitted to remain open, but churches had to be closed - for your health, of course.
God’s people must contend earnestly for the faith. We are to be aggressively engaged in the battle to liberate people from every falsehood and every lofty argument that is raised against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4–5). And we must bear in mind that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). Joy, not fear, should dominate the thinking and behaviour of believers. Time and time again throughout the Word, God admonishes His people to, "fear not". We cannot forsake the commands of God for the conspiracies of man. The mark of the faithful church is that they rejoice in hope, not cower in fear.
Now is not the time to forsake our own assembling together. The church must be the church—a pillar and buttress for the truth. We cannot cower in fear. We cannot hide our light under a bushel. We are not called to feed the fears of a world that is perishing. We have been commissioned to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15), and we are soldiers in a spiritual war. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). It is past time for the church of Jesus Christ to confront the prevailing falsehoods of a depraved society and show hopeless people the way to true hope and abundant life. We are the Lord’s ambassadors, and we must stand confidently in that role, with joy and not fear, in bold unity—and all the more as we see the day of Christ drawing near.