Why Fear the One We Love?
We have lost holy fear. A virtual search on the topic yielded an underwear ad and a 5-point tract on why we don’t need to fear God anymore.
I get that. As an evangelical Catholic, I know ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ But I also know that the God who gave all to gain me can never be reduced to me. He stands apart from us in pure majesty and commands obedience; in that terrible freedom, we can still try and conform Him to our image rather than aspire to His. Not helpful is the consumer culture we stoke—pop religion and psychology that pander to the broad needs of humanity and look askance at any way God displaces us as the center of the universe.
I am not afraid of God. I love Him because He won me. But the gap between my dullness and His brilliance engenders holy fear. This Father, revealed by the Son, in the power of the Spirit, lays claim to me; holy fear endows my responsibility with vigilance, agility, and (at times) disquiet.
He is God, all good. I am neither. Lent may not be long enough to level me with His whispers.
Maybe our commitment to a superficial ‘kindness’ has bleached holy fear. I quote C.S. Lewis in the Living Waters guidebook: ‘By the goodness of God, most of us mean kindness—the desire to see others happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, “What does it matter as long as they are contented?” We want in fact not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence, who, as they say, “liked to see the young people enjoying themselves,” and whose plan for the universe was simply…that “a good time was had by all.”'
Yet mere kindness cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As scripture points out, it is illegitimate sons and daughters who are spoiled; true sons and daughters are disciplined (Heb. 12:8). If God is love, He is by definition more than mere kindness.
Rather than make us feel good, God wants us to become good. His righteousness reveals our sin then invites us into the fire. Will you see? Will you go? My friend just gave up a friend for Lent because God convicted her of uncleanness in that bond; I gave up wine because I used it in the place of God’s peace. Another friend refused to go to a pal’s ‘gay’ wedding and lost him.
Maybe we fear men more than God. It’s time to reverse that trend. Repent. Rend your hearts.
Jesus wants to be the foundation of our loves. As we seek to build on Rock while grasping sand, we do well to ask God to grant us holy fear. Rejoice in the gap! Cast yourself on the God who comes quickly to help and sing with Mary: ‘His mercy endures for those who fear Him’ (Lk 1:50).