Responding to a Plague: Is God more Treasured than all Other Things? Part 5
As we turn to the opening statements by Cyprian, we need to be clear about a foundational point. Being afraid of something does not disqualify a person from the elect of heaven; it does not erase names from the book of life. Everyone is likely afraid of something, be it spiders, sharks, silly string, or snapping turtles. But it is equally true that fears are weaknesses as they clearly can’t be described as strengths. Sure, it is wise to be afraid of jumping into the water with sharks, but foolishness is not what we are addressing here.
Adam and Eve were originally naked because there was no shame or fear. They did not need clothes to protect them from the fears of unknown weather changes or roaming lions. When the world was cursed and the hedge of protection removed in being driven out of the Garden, they needed clothing to protect them from the elements without and the shame from within. (There are also many other theological factors that are not relevant here).
Cyprian begins by addressing why people have a fear of death. He explains that during the deadly plague of his time, many were standing firm, but others turned to fear “either through weakness of mind, or through the decay of faith, or through the sweetness of this worldly life, or through the softness of their sex, or what is of still greater account, through error from the truth.”
Causes of Fear Summary: Solution:
- Weakness of mind - Renewal in Christ, his salvation, and eternal salvation
- Decay of faith - Strengthen in faith by the Spirit’s work
- Love of world - Fascinated with the beauty of Christ and his treasures
- Softness of sex - Is Cyprian sexist? Maybe, but I think he is referring to
the general tendency of women to be more caring, not
- Error - ‘Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord’ 1 Peter 3:18
Cyprian is not saying that Christians struggling are cut off from Christ, but it does mean they are not firmly and securely laying hold of the divine vanquisher who comforts hearts. While it is easy for some to chastise the weak and doubter, but that is not Cyprian’s primary aim, nor mine. The desire is to call out areas of the Christian’s life that need more grace, more Christ, more love, more comfort, more of the triune God to pour forth his presence into the heart and mind of the person.
The solution to weakness in faith is not a kick in the teeth, but more of that which faith lays hold of, namely Christ and his divine gifts. The only thing capable and competent to equip a Christian are the gifts that make them a Christian. That is Christ, and the work of the Spirit to communicate all the gifts of Christ, chief among them are righteousness and union.
Let me be clear. A person who fears death, or fears in general, is afraid of loss and the unknown. They are afraid that what they have will be taken away and what awaits them on the other side of loss is the cause of fear. What will life look like without the 401K, insurance, or a big house? What will life look like if I get Covid or if I die? This turmoil in the heart elicits the reaction to cling to everything they can see, which is perceived health in the time of a plague. However, what Cyprian points out is that Christians who are “placed in the heavenly camp, already hopes for divine things.” To put that in scriptural terms, ‘Christ has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son’ (Col 1:13). As rescued and redeemed ones, we are “being strengthened with all power” (Col 1:11), and God is “filling you with all joy and peace” (Rom 15:13).
Those who have entered the throne room once have an insatiable desire to go back often, for they know that there is what they need more than anything else. The things of the world have lost their luster, and in their stead, we approach the throne of grace again and again for grace, mercy, and help (Heb 4:16). In sum, we do not fear loss in this life because we have all we could hope or imagine and more in heaven marked with our names.
Those who believe the rescuer receive his gifts of comfort and security of salvation. Instead of fearing any seen or unseen dangers, the rescued will “have no trembling at the storms and whirlwinds of the world, and no disturbance.” This security is because we are firmly rooted and grounded in the love of Christ (Eph 3:17).
What Cyprian and I want to help those who fear Covid to be able to do is embrace the reality in Psa 73:25-28 (CSB)
25 Whom do I have in heaven but you?
And I desire nothing on earth but you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever.
27 Those far from you will certainly perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
so I can tell about all you do.
While there are things on earth I like and enjoy, and surely, I do not wish to be foolish with my health or life, but I will not cherish anything transient more than the eternal, glorious beauty of God and the pleasure of being in his presence. I want to arrive at the maturity of faith and help others also be able to say and live as if ‘There is nothing that I desire on earth more than God.’
 There is a plague killing men, women, and children everywhere. I think Cyprian is referring to women’s propensity to great compassion to the hurting than most men. Note that he says softness and not weakness. In any case, I let his words stand, and he can withstand the critiques on his own.  I must say perceived because while you may not show any symptoms for a cold, covid, or canker sores, you may have cancer and not know it. You have run around scared of Covid but die tomorrow from an aneurism or blood clot. At best, we have perceived health on any given day.