Though we've found our saying useful for identifying what we are dealing with when we happen upon it, it really only reveals a part of the truth - the part at the surface. Underlying that strong attachment to fear is an intense desire for control. Our deepest human fears are all representative of the fact that we have precious little control over our lives, that our lives are fragile, that they are temporary, that they can be unthinkably painful, that they can and usually do end without our consent or input, that we don't ultimately make the rules, and that we may be held accountable by some higher power for the lives we've lived. But these big fears are unmanageable. They are too overwhelming, too generalized, too unthinkable, too terrifying. And so we grasp for the things which we feel we can control - we trade those giant and very real fears for smaller targets real or imagined, which seem somehow within our reach, and possibly more subject to our control We focus our fear instead on things we can see, shout down, maybe even defeat.
"For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people saying, 'Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." Isaiah 8:11-13According to Scripture, there is only one appropriate focus for our fear - God. Everything you could possibly fear exists under God's sovereign control. To fear anything or anyone else is idolatry, because God is over everything and everyone else. So take your fear where it belongs - take it to God.
At this point there may be those who object, "But there really is a conspiracy!" To that I would offer a very loving and heartfelt, "So what?" If there is a conspiracy God is sovereign over it. Consider the story of Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers' evil intention, and yet it was part of God's good plan for him, to bring him to Egypt where he would save numerous lives (Gen. 50: 19-20). Consider Jesus, so conspired against by evil men, whose wicked schemes only succeeded in accomplishing God's perfect plan of salvation (Acts 4: 24-29). Rather than focus on and rail against those who conspired against them, Joseph and Jesus concentrated on their own callings and their own character. Evil conspirators will answer to God for their behaviors. We will answer to God for ours. It is His approval, and His alone which we seek.
"Fret not yourself because of evildoers,Fear and fear-mongering are entirely inappropriate responses from the people of God. Unless we are directly involved, or very close to a matter and have verifiable proof, there is likely nothing we can or should do about it. (In the case that we actually do have such involvement or inside knowledge, we are obligated to intervene. But for the average person that will seldom be the case.) Beyond that, in the absence of such proof, we find ourselves relying on hearsay and risk making ourselves guilty of spreading falsehoods, slandering the good names of any number of people, and leaving them with little recourse to right the wrongs spoken against them. Christ tells us to "...love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you..." Matt. 5:44 Even if what we believe to be true is true, we have no right to spread about evil reports. Rather than harboring hatred and suspicion, Christ would have us love.
and be not envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future;
the lamp of the wicked will be put out." Prov. 24:19-20
Again, what if a particular conspiracy theory proves to be true? Imagine with me a worst case scenario: several highly placed and influential officials in the government concoct a secret agenda to step-by-step discredit Christianity with the goal that public opinion be so swayed that systematic extermination of Christians may be carried out without the objection of the majority populace. Well, this has happened before, during the time of the apostles, and Paul had an entirely novel (Christian) way of dealing with it. When writing to his fellows who were being persecuted, he did not coach them to fight, to bully, to cajole, to revile, to demand, or to seek power or strength in numbers. In fact, he seemed to find weakness a preferable position for the Christian:
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.'" 2 Corinthians 12:9-10His fellow apostle, Peter, agreed:
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name."1 Peter 4:12-1And as to the behavior a Christian under the rule of a potentially hostile government which has no respect for Christianity (recall that in this case he was speaking to those suffering under the reign of the Nero) Paul gives the following commands:
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed." Romans 13:1-7And further:
"... then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." 1 Timothy 2:1-2So, from the Scripture we are instructed in the appropriate Christian response to actual anti-Christian conspiracies: contentment, rejoicing, submission under and respect to governmental authority, continued payment of taxes, and prayer, even for wicked rulers.
Let me add here, on a parenthetical note, that such theorizing is not appropriate for Christians even when the matters are smaller and seemingly less significant, even when they are considered nothing more than interesting and harmless diversions. I've heard any number of such theories bandied about over the years, some quite silly (like the recent one about Lady Gaga being a secret member of the Illuminati). These "lighter" theories, while less likely to arise from fear than from the prideful desire to be the "possessor of hidden knowledge", are still acts of passing judgment on not only the actions of the parties involved, but the heart motives behind them. We are saying that they not only did the thing, but we know the real reason why. We know what they're really up to. According to Scripture, we are not even adequate judges of our own hearts."All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit." (Prov. 16: 2) If a man cannot even view his own heart with clarity, what hubris it is to claim to have secret knowledge into the hearts and motives of others. Only God sees clearly into the heart of a man.
Finally, and briefly, when we Christians spout and circulate information from questionable sources which we cannot verify, we often end up accomplishing little more making fools of ourselves, undermining our credibility, and bringing disgrace on the Gospel.
We are experiencing difficult and uncertain economic times as well as political unrest. Some fear is inevitable, and there will always be those who seek to exploit it to their advantage, be it financial or political. We live in an information age, and a time when the media is under increasing pressure, struggling to maintain an audience, and the pressure to sensationalize is greater than it has ever been. Pay attention to what you watch and listen to. Pay attention to the emotions your information sources are eliciting from you. If you find yourself becoming suspicious, consider. If you find yourself becoming fearful, consider. If you find yourself becoming malicious, spiteful, or bitter, consider. Remember, there are forces at work in this world that benefit greatly from arousing you in this way, for "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" and "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind". Those who would seek to motivate you by any fear but a deep, reverential fear of God are unwitting dupes of the spirit of this world. Do not allow yourselves to be swayed by anything but the fear of the Lord.