Thursday, September 24, 2015

Don't Fear the Walking Dead

Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Revelation 1:17-18

Fear. It can drive up gas prices, trigger an adrenaline rush, and it definitely sells, at least that’s what AMC is hoping for with its latest spin-off series, Fear the Walking Dead.

Being a fan of The Walking Dead graphic novels and its television adaptation, I tuned in. And once again, the pilot episode sucked me in. I enjoy well-told story no matter the genre. Especially when it has verisimilitude, an inner consistence of reality within that particular fictional world. It certainly makes it even more enjoyable to watch when the writing, actors, and plot carry you along the way a good suspense drama ought to.

One of the thoughts that has always kept my attention when watching the original series is the nagging question, how will they survive? Inevitably, this fictional story causes me to reflect upon reality. What does this show teach us about how we survive in life and death situations? What does it tell us about humanity? How do we survive? Christians, of course, have a comforting and trustworthy explanation for that question – one that is both story and history.
And while survival is certainly a theme in Fear the Walking Dead, I find myself pondering a new question: How do the characters in this story respond to fear?

Some are overwhelmed; others are skeptical. Some s help their neighbor; others make a power-grab or cause anarchy. Some are naïve and play the ostrich; others demonstrate courage, bravery, and self-sacrifice. Some are overcome by fear and grow loveless; while others overcome, or at least endure, fear with love for others.

Take away the zombies and insert a devastating earthquake and the results would be largely the same. Turns out this show can teach us a few things after all. But of course it’s for mature audiences and ought to be watched with discernment.

Fear reveals where we place our fear, love, and trust. Think of the disciples in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. The wind howled. The waves crested. The disciples were sore afraid. And Jesus was fast asleep. How did the disciples handle fear? They turned inward on themselves. Lord, don’t you care that we are perishing? Instead of being comforted by the fact that Jesus was asleep and not in a panic, they turned to worship their favorite gods in their time of distress.

We’re no different. We fear, love, and trust all things above God. We’re tempted to turn inward when afraid rather than outward to the cross. And just like the disciples, the Word that calms our fear will not come from inside of us. Rescue comes from the one who perfectly fears, loves, and trusts the Father. Jesus speaks a word and the wind and waves are hushed, a surfer’s nightmare and a fisherman’s dream. Of course, Jesus didn’t promise his disciples, then or now, that we would be free from trouble in this life; quite the contrary in fact. But he did promise to be with us always. And so he is.

On Good Friday the disciples were afraid. But the cross is Jesus answer to their fears and ours. Does the Lord care that we are perishing? You bet He does. He cares enough to die for you and take all your fears and sins along with him. Our troubled hearts are hushed by his Word. Even death is shut up. The grave’s hungry jaws are thrust open by the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Jesus' cross is our safe-zone.

And when the disciples were huddled in a locked room for fear of the Jews, Jesus came among them and declared, Peace be with you. Weeping and fear may tarry for the night but resurrection joy comes in the morning. And that’s not just a good story; it’s history. Peace be with you.

You see, a good story, even a fictional one on television like Fear the Walking Dead, is always more than a story. Stories teach us about ourselves and the world we live in, and once in a while they’ll even tell us about another world where we’ll live without fear.
That’s what caught my eye in a recent episode (Not Fade Away). Surrounding the safe zone where the protagonists live, there’s a barbed wire fence, designed to keep people out as well as in. But on this particular fence were written words that are truly freeing: Rev. 21:4.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
This was no accident. Who put the verse there and why? I’ll probably never know. But I know this. We need not fear the walking dead, or even death itself. For these words give us hope that Jesus’ perfect love casts out all our fears. Fear ends at the foot of the cross.

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