Few years ago, as part of my religious church activities to 'please' God, a friend of mine and I decided to start a website to proclaim the 'good news' and we ironically named it ‘graceisgiven’. We had the website registered and hosted. Now we are faced with an issue, what are we going to put on the site? Many ideas came such as cartoons, pictures, bible study materials etc. I also asked some of my churchmates to write articles which I could post on the website. Finally, my friend wrote the first article called: ‘The fear of God’.
He did a pretty good job in compiling all the terrorizing verses from both the OT and NT to establish the fact that we really should be shivering to approach this unapproachable god. He even mentioned to me that his motivation for living a 'morally acceptable' life is the fear of God. Hmm...
But, (thankfully!) we could not carry on that project much further and it eventually stopped.
It is a saddening fact that millions and millions in the church living in the bondage of fear of God. In fear, there is no freedom. Fear is the opposite of love. So, the question is, in the light of New Covenant established by the death of Christ Jesus, what is the nature of fear in our relationship with God?
The idea of wrathful, angry, devastating god was not foreign to me. Though the New Testament consistently presents us a Graceful, radically loving God again and again, page after page, I hesitated to accept it. One reason I loved this angry, wrathful god is that I could use the same god to terrorize others forcing them to accept my belief system unless they want to burn in hell. It gave me manipulating skills and powers to generate fear. I enjoyed terrorizing others. Call me sadistic!
Forget all the theology (for a moment), forget the difference between OT and NT, forget grace theology, forget freedom from law, I want to ask a question: After meditating a little bit on the account of the crucifixion of Jesus, remembering the ridicule, pain and agony He went through, the cry He cried, the curse He became, the forgiveness He granted to the ones tortured Him, the salvation He granted to the criminal on the cross, the way He was silent in front of the accusers, the blood He shed, the crown of thorns he wore, how could we, how could we even possibly come up with the idea that He (God) is someone to be afraid of?
To the ones who still struggle to balance the mercy and justice of God, I have news for you: Yes, God Jehovah is a just God, He can’t leave the sins unpunished, He is wrathful towards sin, and His wrath is beyond our imagination. BUT, lets not forget the history. He poured His entire wrath towards sin on His own Son. He punished Him till death. He made Him a curse, He made Him a sin, He made Him to go through shame, He silenced Him, He caused Him to sweat blood. And thus, He fulfilled His own requirement/law: without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. And finally said : “IT IS FINISHED”. And He meant it.
The glory which was hidden behind the curtain due to our sin, was revealed to us (the ordinary) by tearing the curtain from top to bottom, thus opening a way for us to go into the throne of grace with courage. So, let us please stop spitting on His face again and again by wrongfully accusing Him that He is still keeping His wrath in His heart. He is done with it. Now it is upto us whether we want to accept this or reject this. If our unbelief causes us to reject this absolute truth of God's provision of forgiveness for the entire humanity, all we can expect is to be continually afraid of him. And we know, fear casts out love.
Now, by removing the factor of fear from the equation of God, does it make Him a mere human, powerless? Shouldn’t we fear Him at all?
Yes, but there is a totally different dimension.
Today, I fear God not because of the terror involved, but because of the mystery involved, the mystery of Christ in us. It is the mystery of His hiding nature (from our sight), the spirit nature what makes me wonder. It is the idea of 'faith' (things unseen) what puts me in awe. I fear I might find Him in the most unlikely places. May be in my loneliness, or may be even in my sin. I fear Him not because He is unapproachable, but I fear Him because He is so approachable beyond any comprehension of human mind. I fear Him not because of His wrath, I fear Him because of His love. I fear Him not because of His justice, but because of His mercy. This fear is not like the fear religion uses to terrorize people. This fear is the fear of acceptance of our spirit in the midst of total sinfulness of our flesh. Yes, I am little scared of the fact that He will still love me in the midst of all my sins, mess, doubts and confusion. I don't know why I call it 'fear'. Almost always, in my encounters with Him, my fear turns into wonder and awe with a "What a God!" exclamation.
How can I not fear Him when He loves me unconditionally? How can I not fall on my face when He calls me a ‘Saint’? How can I not scream the biggest “THANK YOU” at the top of my lungs in a joyful fear when He calls me ‘righteous’? How can I not adore Him in fearful excitement when He calls me His friend?
I am talking about the God of the universe!