I was touring one of the oldest log church buildings in America when I noticed holes in the walls. “What are these holes?” I asked. A guide explained that they were drilled so men could put their rifles through the holes to shoot at Indians if they attacked while the church was meeting. We don’t know how often this happened, but such raids were possible and men took precautions.
Considering our current situation, this example of pioneer fortitude raises a few questions. Why didn’t these churchgoers stay at home? Why didn’t the church cancel all meetings until they felt they were out of danger? If they knew there was a possibility of a life-threatening situation, why would they take the risk?
These people weren’t fools. They had learned to be careful living on the frontier. They didn’t walk into a camp of Indians and start a fight. But they didn’t shelter in place at home. That wouldn’t have kept them from danger anyway because they could have been attacked there too. Besides, they had to go outside to work and get water and provide food for their families. They accepted risks like being attacked by a bear, bitten by a snake or getting caught in a bad storm. They didn’t depend on the government to babysit them or rely on the media to tell them when it was safe to go outside. There were no public announcements lecturing them about where to stand, when to wash their hands, or how to breathe safely. They took care of themselves. They lived their lives and they did so without fear. Of course some took unnecessary risks and paid a price. Others died prematurely in spite of being careful. But overall they worked and played and worshiped instead of trying to live in a glass bubble in hopes that it wouldn’t break. They didn’t laugh in the face of death, but they accepted the fact of death as a part of life. When loved ones died they buried them with their hands and mourned and moved on. They had to in order to survive.
What a different world we live in today. Our life of luxury has made us weak and afraid of our own shadows. The courage, resolve, and maturity of the pioneers of this country ought to make us feel ashamed. If they were alive they would be ashamed of how their descendants have panicked over Covid-19. They would be disgusted that the same people who say we should not have church services because of a virus are willing to risk their lives on highways where over thirty-thousand people die each year. They would be furious—as some of us are—that Christians can go to eat out and shop but they can’t go to church services because it’s “unsafe.”
Fear is natural. A certain amount of it is good. But we cannot live in fear as Christians. “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7). There is plenty of fear in the world today. What people need to see in us is faith.