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I opened a new bottle of dry erase board cleaner today. It was sealed with a plastic collar around the lid — for my protection. Protection from what? Children? But that only works until you open it — once you open it, it’s fair game, unless you keep it locked up and/or out of reach. Are terrorists trying to infiltrate bottles of dry erase cleaner, perhaps? I might catch smallpox or something.

I get why our food and medicines are sealed. Some idiot back in the 1970’s thought it would be fun to inject cyanide into capsule of Tylenol, and a bunch of people died. Manufacturers started sealing medicine bottles shortly thereafter. Protective seals on food products came a little later. Yes, poison in products we ingest would be very bad, and it makes at least some sense to protect against that. I’m definitely not planning to ingest my dry erase board cleaner, though.

One thing Jesus repeats often in the gospels is “do not fear,” along with “do not worry.” In Mark 4, he tells his disciples they shouldn’t be worried about a storm:

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

–Mark 4:39-40, NIV

He really gets into this later on, when he talks about not worrying about what you will eat or what you will wear — but this is a beginning. Do not fear. Fear not. If you’re living the kingdom life (which is what Jesus is trying to give us) you don’t need to be afraid.

We have a lot of fear in our society, and it goes beyond protective seals on the products we buy. We’re encouraged to fear our so-called enemies, and especially terrorists. We have to let the government wiretap phones and hold prisoners without just cause because we’re afraid of terrorism.

We’re encouraged to fear recession, and to spend more money in order to prop up the economy.

In some cases, people have been taught to fear God — and not in the “I revere and respect your awesomeness” way, but in a scary way — and that’s wrong too.

In the kingdom of God, we do not need to fear. We let go of our fears, and live the abundant life.

Did you know that it was Jesus who originally said “a house divided against itself cannot stand?” (Mark 3:24, paraphrased by Abraham Lincoln) Many people think that’s an Abe Lincoln original — but Abe was, like many people, just taking the Bible and applying it to modern times.

This was Lincoln’s acceptance speech for the Republican nomination for Senator from Illinois in 1858 — three years before the Civil War began. Lincoln predicted that the United States could not permanently remain half slave and half free, with half of the states legally allowing slavery and half of the states abolishing it. The country would have to come around to either abolition or legal slavery as a national policy — and he pointed out that it was entirely possible that all of the states would eventually agree to legalize slavery. It still stands as a radical speech and a strong warning.

Jesus, on the other hand, was responding to a charge by the Pharisees. He’d been driving out demons (probably healing the mentally ill, in modern terms), and the Pharisees said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (Mark 3:22 NIV)

Jesus then responded:

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

So…Jesus was basically using logic to defend himself, which doesn’t really have much to do with what Lincoln was talking about. I think it’s still true in both contexts, though. blogger Robert Longley noted in 2007 that Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President at Illinois’ Old State Capitol building — the same place where Lincoln made the “House Divided” speech.