Yesterday’s post, “Why Are Atheists So Bad,” catalyzed a great discussion involving Christians and unChristians on my Facebook page. Discussion is the best result I can hope for from a post. One of the topics of that discussion was the fear of God.
I wrote in the post that Christians who realize they are saved by grace “try to act in ways that reflect God’s love because we are loved, not because we fear.”
A friend of mine responding to the post wrote:
“Fear of God” has always puzzled me. Were I to believe in God, He/She would be part of me, not my boss or disciplinarian. Live a good life, make mistakes, and learn to be a better person from those mistakes. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. I’ve always been suspicious of those that need to be feared. Aren’t they generally bullies?
I replied that for me, “fear of God” is like the fear I had of my parents when I was a toddler. They were a lot bigger than me, much more powerful, and I depended on them for everything. But I did not cower before them. I knew I was loved and trusted they would use that power inays that were good for me.
On a continuum of fear that stretches from respect to terror, my toddler-feelings for my parents – and my attitude toward God today – would be way over on the respect side.
Of course that analogy would not work – and would have the opposite effect – for someone who grew up in an abusive family.
Thinking about it over the past day or so, perhaps a better word than fear would be “awe.” I remember seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. No matter how much I had heard about its majesty and massiveness, I was overwhelmed – awed – at the sight of it. Certainly there was some fear mixed in; it was a long way down and in the gift shop I’d glanced through Over the Edge: Death at the Grand Canyon recounting all the known fatal misadventures at the canyon.
Marveling at the beauty and expanse of the canyon far outweighed any fear of its danger.
It is that sort of awe that captures the posture in which we are called to approach God.
Of course when dealing with the fear of God we can go too far the other way. We can strip God and by extension, Jesus, of power and might, leaving ourselves with a manageable God who can be molded to our purposes.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …
“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
What are your thoughts about the fear of God? You can use the comments below to continue the discussion.