Monday, May 2, 2011

Fear...And What To Do With It. Part II

Who, then, shall we fear?  

If the 'who' is limited to our fellow human beings, then the answer that Jesus gives us is, clearly, no-one.  Even if they purpose to kill you.  So it would seem then, that we should be fearless, and that fear itself is more or less a nuisance.  But Jesus doesn't give us time to let the mortar of that musing harden--He immediately continues this amazing Luke 12 discourse with these words:

But I will show you whom you should fear: 
Fear him who, after the killing of the body, 
has power to throw you into hell. 
Yes, I tell you, fear him.

So, fearing the appropriate things...this is wisdom.  I think the Bible even says so somewhere.  But most of us in western Christianity have muzzled Jesus on this score.  In the sermons we hear, in the books we read, how often are we loved enough by our teachers to hear these life-giving words of Jesus?  We have made God in an image to our liking and He is not a God to fear.  We have made him a God for us to love and a God for us to be loved by.  Full stop.  We like our one dimensional God.

But almost nothing about God, nor anything that He has created, is one dimensional.  Take waterfalls, for example.

It's really not fair...I get to fly over some of the most majestic waterfalls on the planet.  The mountains of Papua are literally covered with the things.  There is so much rain here that almost every mountain has dozens of huge waterfalls cascading over its cliffs.  Some of them are so isolated that I'm convinced no human being has ever stood at their base, soaking in their beauty.  I love waterfalls.  They fill me with a sense of fairy tale wonder...their pure beauty creates an immediate peace in my soul.  They remind me of all that is good in the world.  I cannot fly by one without those wonderful emotions rising within me.

But waterfalls are terribly dangerous things.  Our home is at the foot of Mount Cyclops.  We can sit in our living room and take in the view of the mountain and its pretty waterfall.  A missionary died climbing that pretty waterfall.

When Cameron was three, I almost lost him in a gorgeous, terrifying Papuan waterfall.  For six months afterwards I would wake up in the middle of the night with a start, heart racing as my dreams had taken me back to that awful struggle against the current to reach my son as a beautiful wall of water did its best to drown him.  I almost lost that struggle.  I love waterfalls.  I fear waterfalls.

And God is much the same way.  Beautiful.  Lovely.  Easily worshiped.  Brings us a great sense of peace...and yet, He is a force greatly to be feared.

Yes, I tell you, fear him.

And if you fear Him, you live in such a way that you enjoy His wonder, beauty and love...and, fearfully, you  are driven by a respect of this majestic force to obedience.  You listen and obey when you hear His Spirit saying things like, "There's a line here.  Don't cross it.  Don't jump in so close to the waterfall's can kill you."   

It's clear too, that Jesus knew our psyches well.  He was all too familiar with our silly compulsion to categorize people, and even God, into single, one dimensional categories.  He tells us unflinchingly to fear God.  But I have a feeling that He knew that if He left it at that, we'd have all died of ulcers.  He pushes another dimension of God on us.   He immediately follows fear him with these incredible lines:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  
Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 
Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.



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