The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” Numbers 13:1-2
Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 13:31-14:4
It is bad enough when God’s people make decisions for themselves out of a spirit of fear; it is a whole different level of bad when we spread that fear like an infectious disease in accord with some ungodly agenda to scare people into agreeing with us. This was the real sin of these Jewish leaders in Numbers 13. Faced with an overwhelming obstacle, these leaders became fearful. From that fear, they formed an agenda, and they implemented that “public relations” agenda (even without the powers of social media) with great success. Numbers 13-14 tells of a sad day for God’s people. And a costly one.
I am too late with this post. I know that. After the tragedy in Orlando this week, the “fear agenda” came quickly and powerfully across every media channel. Every side of every political issue even remotely touching the event claimed it as their own best evidence that their worst fears are all coming true. “This is just one more example of…” “Exactly as we have been trying to tell you…” “This is why you should agree with us that…” It did not seem to matter which side we were on, liberals and conservatives, LGBT and Evangelicals, guns and no-guns, all of us jumped on the merry-go-round and sold the tragedy as the poster-child of our issue. Seriously, when it comes to promoting our various fear agendas, we can be utterly shameless.
Truthfully, it has become a bit of a routine for our culture…a normal way of communicating. Just check your Facebook feed. How much of what we see on social media today is just a version of spreading fear in support of some specific agenda? And that’s my point here, not just that we are afraid and not just that we are spreading the fear…but that it is so often specifically to support an agenda. It is a way of the world. But it is NOT an acceptable way for the church, for a people of God, “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
For the church, every time we participate in the fear agenda (whatever side we happen to be on), we do so under the clear and distinct banner: “We have no faith in Sovereign God”. Our implicit message is exactly the same as the people of Israel in Numbers 13-14: “God is not in control here…we must be.” Fear, you see, is an insidious thing. It changes us. It ruins us. And it steals our message to a lost and dying world.
Can we just grieve the unspeakable loss of Orlando this week? Can we forego hijacking it for our own agenda? And can we stop using that tactic altogether as Christ-followers? Let’s stop being afraid. And, for God’s sake, let’s stop the fear agenda. We have such more important work to do.
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