Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Matthew 10:28 (NJB)
For what is increasingly taking place before our eyes can be summarized in the words: the fear of men, that is, the absence of the fear of God, is the beginning of all foolishness. Today, since the image of God has been subjugated to the laws of advertising, the fear of God has all but disappeared from the catalogue of virtues. If he is to have advertising appeal, God must be so graphically depicted in exactly the opposite way that no one can possibly find any reason to fear him. That would be the last quality that would appear in our representations of him. In this way, that reversal of values that was the real sickness of pre-Christian religious history spreads more and more throughout our society and even in the midst of the Church. For even in ancient times there was a widespread belief that one did not have to fear the good God, the real God, because from him, since he was good, only good was to be expected. There was no need to worry about the good God; the evil powers were the ones to fear. Only they were dangerous; consequently one must do all in one’s power to win their favor. In this maxim we can see that the service of idols is an apostasy from the service of God. But we are surrounded by this idolatry. The good God does us no harm; we need offer him no more than a kind of primitive trust.
I was told earlier this week that preaching the gospel wasn’t as important as living it. That what was needed was to abandon all that divided us from others, in order to find the peace and love which would change our community. That we couldn’t let doctrines like the Trinity or like Justification, or even the nature of Jesus divide us from worshipping together. Because what really matters is being good, and being loving. (I’ve also had to deal with the other extreme, but that is another blog perhaps!)
I think Cardinal Ratzinger’s quote above puts it quite well. We seem to have caught the idea that God is love (and He is!), but failed to understand what it means to love. Or maybe perhaps, we have let those we fear ( or are in awe of ) re-define the meaning of love. So love becomes a form of acceptance, an acceptance/love that doesn’t seek out the best for the beloved, but assumes where they are is the best.
Perhaps this why God is not feared, and therefore, His words aren’t heard or obeyed. We don’t want to hear the part of God transforming us, refining us. We only want a God who will bless us, who will do us no harm, who will not wisely rebuke or expect us to change, or conform to the image of Christ.
But it that was true, why did Jesus need to come? Why did He have to die on a cross? Why is it, that even John the Apostle, who is described as the beloved, is terrified when he enters the presence of God? Why did Jesus say that our fear shouldn’t be of the world, and the opinions of man, but of God, to whom we are ultimately responsible?
Yes, there are people who make mountains out of what is neither commanded or forbidden in scripture. There is also the core gospel, that which is described in the creeds, about our creation, and the conception, birth, life, death resurrection of Christ, and that it is the Holy Spirit that calls us to a life in relationship with Him. A relationship where we learn that God is amazing and holy and just… and yes loving. Loving enough that He calls us to repentance and transformation. Loving enough to wisely grant us that repentance, and cause and complete the transformation.
Being in fear of God, being in awe of His justice, His power, His wisdom and His love does something to us. It causes to humbly, and yet confidently enter His presence. To accept the relationship on the only terms offered. His terms.
But those terms are glorious….
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 47). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.