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 10:27–28 NIV
Notice that Jesus does not teach his disciples that fear is wrong, but rather he reorients their thinking. In Matthew 10 Jesus is sending his disciples out into a world that was hostile to his message. Powerful people were already plotting to kill Jesus, and those speaking in his name would likewise be in danger. Within that context, Jesus commissions his followers to not back down from the mission they have been given. They are to proclaim that “the kingdom of heaven has come near,” and they should not abandon their mission just because it was dangerous.
But notice also that Jesus never promises to keep these disciples safe. He never says that God is safe! He reminds them that the death they would face in their mission might kill their body, but blowing off their mission would face eternal consequences from God!
I confessed on Sunday morning that for years I read this passage as a reassurance that God would never let anything bad happen to me as long as I was doing what he asked me to do. That’s exactly the opposite of what Jesus is saying! Look at the very next verse.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.Matthew 10:29 NIV
Jesus never tells us the sparrows won’t fall. God will not keep the sparrow from falling, but he will care for that sparrow as it falls.
Our focus should not be on if we will fall, rather we should focus on whose arms we are falling into.
Our mission is dangerous. Our calling is not safe. But we should not fear what will happen to us in this life. We are worth more than many sparrows, and we will not fall outside of our Father’s care. We should, however, fear the consequences of not carrying out our mission. Disowning Jesus means he will disown us. Living as disciples of Jesus means we have nothing to fear.
If there’s anything in this passage that causes you fear, then there are things that need to change in your life.
Focus on your mission. Focus on your Father. Focus on Jesus, and don’t be afraid.