THE IDES OF MARCH 3-15-20
The Ides of March
March 15, 2020
March 15th, which in Roman times was known as the “Ides of March”, is now best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate. As many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius, were involved. It is believed that a seer had warned that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March. On his way to the Theatre of Pompey, where he would be assassinated, Caesar passed the seer and joked, "The Ides of March are come", implying that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, to which the seer replied "Aye, Caesar; but not gone."
Now, I am not advocated listening to seers, soothsayers, or whatever else you want to call them. But there are times we need to listen to warnings given to us by our leaders, be they government, medical, or spiritual. Often taking just a few minor precautions can save us from a lot of trouble later.
But there is a vast difference between using sound judgment in taking proper precautions, and turning one’s life upside-down in a state of panic.
So what are we, as Christians, called to do whenever there is something that is threatening our family, our church, our town, or our country? Are we to lock ourselves in our homes, refusing to go out in public, for fear of being attacked either by evil people, coming into contact with a microscopic organism, or a being caught in a natural disaster?
In my Children’s Message I told the children about the spies God sent into the land of Canaan upon Moses’ order, who returned in fear of the giants that live there. Because of their cowardice and lack of faith, they never possessed the promised land. However, because Joshua and his men were courageous and trusted in God, they entered it and possessed it.
The verse on our bulletin cover says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:7 CSB). We are to exhibit power over fear, love for others instead of fretting over saving ourselves, and sound judgment instead of acting out of sheer panic.
So how does that relate to some of the threats facing the world today? How do we know where the line for sound judgment ends, and the one for fear and panic begins?
One of the topics that has come up recently in the church is the threat of someone entering, especially during a church service, with intent to harm and kill. Fear and panic will tell you to stay home because church is not a safe place. Sound judgment and trust in God tells you that God still wants his faithful followers to gather for worship. It does not mean we do not have the right to protect ourselves and our family from an intruder, but neither should we discourage visitors or view everyone we do not know personally as a threat. If Jesus told us to love our enemies, can’t we at least love strangers who more likely than not are future friends and not enemies at all? Doesn’t Matthew 25:25 tell us that the King said to the sheep on his right, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.”? And then said that whenever we do this, we are actually doing it to him; the reverse also being true, that when we don’t invite the stranger in, it is the same as not inviting God himself in?
Another recent topic that is all over the news is the coronavirus. Again, normal precautions are fine. Wash your hands often. But don’t use hand sanitizer 100+ times a day, wear a face mask, and go out as little as possible. We are to be a light in the world, but if we are exhibiting fear, our light is not shining brightly, if at all. If we refuse to go near other people because we might catch something, are we showing the love of Christ to them? Jesus said we are to visit the sick, not stay as far away from them as we can. Remember, back when Jesus was on earth, lepers were forced to live in isolation so other people would not contract it, but Jesus not only went near them, he touched them - and healed them.
So then when, and only when, is fear appropriate? Jesus gave us the answer to that question. He said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). This is reiterated in Hebrews 10:31, which says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” But Christians do not need to be afraid of their loving, heavenly Father, or of ever stepping foot in hell, because of Jesus, who died and rose again for our redemption.
Therefore, while the chances are small, you might someday, somehow, end up with a deadly disease, be shot by a homicidal maniac or terrorist, die in a plane crash, or any other multitude of unfortunate disasters, if your faith is in Jesus Christ, you know it is only a gateway to an eternity full of wonders beyond description, love without limits, and complete peace. The media may flood you with terrifying news, warnings, and images, but Jesus does not want you to live in fear. He told us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27). So who are you going to listen to – the world – or Jesus? I pray it is Jesus. Amen.
"Eye of the Storm" (Ryan Stevenson) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qlow_JkOpiw
"Crushing Snakes" (Crowder) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TGkqjQfZyU