Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Fear of God

It's difficult to talk to a lot of people about God.  Some refuse to admit He exists, and others will only accept God if He happens to be soft and cuddly, a dispenser of material pleasures and comforts.  Some might be bold enough to allow God to care about Justice, but only in a politically correct manner which is consistent with humanism and social fashion.  What would Brangelina do, in a phrase.

Try to point out that this thinking puts God in a box, tries to make Him a puppet, and you will be accused of all sorts of evils, especially of being judgmental and a hypocrite.  Never mind that anyone making such charges would - by definition - be guilty of the very same offense.  I really have come to believe this is why so many people do not have a relationship with God; they have absolutely no sense of the God who truly exists.

So what does this have to do with the fear of God?  Well, for one thing, God is not tame.  I pray to God every day, but with more energy and focus on some occasions.  Like in 2008, when my family and I were in our house while Hurricane Ike roared past.  Not a big hurricane by most standards, but the power and the threat from the storm was very real.  I don't even think 'storm' is the right word.  A storm passes by in a couple hours, and varies in intensity, but a hurricane roars for half a day, with high wind and heavy rain, knocking out power and the phones before it even starts so you feel completely alone and helpless, and you spend more than a little time worrying about whether the plywood you put up over your windows was thick enough, put up securely or otherwise might fail to protect your house and family. At such moments you grasp how small we humans are.  The same when your child is seriously sick, or you wife was in a car accident, or when you lose a job, and so on.  The world is much bigger than we are, and the God who made the world and everyone in it, is great beyond measure.

But God is not just good because of power.  He is also pure goodness.  To some folks, that makes God seem like Santa Claus, but authentic good is scary.  Imagine someone who never lied.  Someone whose word was always sure to be good.  Someone who never spread rumors, who never exaggerated, who never took anything that was not theirs.  Someone who was not only the best student in the class, but who set aside time to help the slowest students improve.  Someone who made statements that seemed like assumptions, but in fact were always completely right.  Someone who could look at you and know everything there is about you.  Someone, in short, who never made a mistake, never got an answer wrong, and in any disagreement proved to be right.

Now imagine that this perfect person lived with you, so that everyday you saw the huge difference between your own ability and theirs, your own character and theirs, your own blunders and their perfect results.  Wouldn't you be intimidated?   Now consider that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.   Still think He's someone to mess with?

But God is also scary good in His essence.  I have been privileged to know some people who lived lives of great service and work, who were humble yet confident,  I could see God at work in such people, and friends those people scared me.  People like that are very, very different from ordinary folks, and as much as I want to hear God say 'well done, thou good and faithful servant' when I stand before Him, I am well aware that my actual results are likely to cause Him to comment 'get a mop'.  

God is scary.  Like a strong parent is scary, or a good wife.  Like a teacher who is top in his field, or a coach who means to make you a champion.  You do your best, knowing it needs to be done better and better every day.  It's not about fear of punishment, but fear of missing the mark, of turning out to be less the man than you hoped you could prove you were, in fact.  It's about learning there is a perfect piece of music or art you are meant to make, but you are afraid you won't do it properly.  It's about wanting to be the person you were meant to be, to reach full potential rather than make mistakes.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  We would do well to remember.