Monday, May 01, 2006

Love or Fear?

Luther's meaning of the First Commandment, as recorded in Luther's Small Catechism (which I diligently memorized years ago for my confirmation but can no long precisely recall in its enirity), he writes, "We are to fear, love and trust God above all else." This is a common theme through out Luther's Catechism..."fear, love, and trust". It's a seeming paradox, for it does hold great truth about the nature of our realationship with God.

My e-mail devotion for the day addressed this topic:
“Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7).

"Are we to fear or love God?" asked our facilitator in a small group.

After a brief discussion we concluded that we are to do both: fear and love God. How can that be?

Fear without love makes God a merciless judge waiting to pounce on us if we do wrong. We don’t want to get near a God like that.

Love without fear, however, makes God to be a comedian who wants everyone to just be happy--- the old man in the sky with flowing white hair patting everyone on the head, mumbling, "Bless you. Everything will be just fine." That’s not love. It’s sentimental fluff.

Because God is awesome and holy, we fear Him. Because God is kind and good, we love Him.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the children are to meet Aslan, the lion king of Narnia and they are afraid. "Is he tame?" one asks.

"Oh, no," Mr. Beaver says. "You have every right to be afraid of him, for he is fierce."

Then he smiles at the children, "but don’t be afraid, Aslan is not tame but he is good."

We are to fear God, to honor and respect Him, to live in awe of His power, and to obey His Word. But because we know He is good, we also love and trust Him.

Consider a child who loves and trusts his father. He knows his father will provide for him, look after him, protect him, stand by him and fight for him. Still, when he’s been naughty, he’s afraid all the same. Why? "What will dad do to me now?" he worries. He knows that he’s done something to displease his father and there will be consequences.

And what does a loving father do? Excuse bad behavior? Allow it to continue? No. Because he loves his child deeply, he’ll allow him or her to face the consequences. Otherwise, the child will not learn about the real world. The child will not grow and mature and learn from his or her mistakes.

Real love takes the long-term view. It punishes to prevent more harm. It disciplines to create more growth. It sometimes withholds what we think is good to give us something better.

Thus, the love of God is both tough and tender. Our response to a God like that is to fear and love Him.

~Father, I thank You that You love me enough to discipline me.

It very much reminds me of Hebrews 12:
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."[a]

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13"Make level paths for your feet,"[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Warning Against Refusing God
14Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
18You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned."[c] 21The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."[d]

22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens."[e] 27The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our "God is a consuming fire."

For some reason, that imagery very much appeals to me. I like that my Father loves me enough to punish me when I do wrong yet has grace enough to sustain me and encourage me to do better. That's my meditation for the day, I guess.

Grace and peace to each of you.

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