Monday, July 26, 2010

With The Fear of God

With the fear of God, with faith and love, draw near!
The fear of God is not just awe.  The fear of God is a kind of fear.  It is the knowledge that God is not to be trifled with, that God’s love is such that He will not shrink from extreme consequences to cure us of our sinful habits.  
It seems as though we can get away with our secret sins.  We are not caught; there is no terrible consequence--at least none that we see.  Our conscience bothers us.  We feel bad about it, but not bad enough to sacrifice whatever it takes to change.  We think that God winks at our “little indulgence.”  We do not realize that God’s patience is providing a space for our repentance, that wrath is being stored up for the day of wrath when God will not pay attention to our weeping.  
Now is the acceptable time.  Today is the day of salvation.  Turn from your wickedness and live.  If your right hand offends you (causes you to sin), cut it off.  It is better to enter the Kingdom of Heaven maimed, than to enter whole into torment where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

The suffering of amputation is severe, yet it is the love for the body that teaches us the wisdom of cutting off that which poisons the whole.  So it is with God.  The Wise Physician will cut and cauterize to heal the festering wounds that we have neglected.  It's good to fear the physician's knife.  It is good to follow the therapy (repentance and confession) the Good Shepherd prescribes. There is yet time to avoid surgery.


Barbara said...

Dear Fr. Michael,

My initial response to this post was one of shock and terror - much like my response to Psalm 90 which I read this have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of your countenance...who knows the power of your anger....teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. In the Orthodox Study Bible (old and new), Psalm 90 is slightly different than the Orthodox Study New Testament with Psalms. In the former, the Psalmist asks that God would show him his right hand, so that we would number our days. I was wondering about the right hand of God and what that meant. Do you know?

It is hard to draw near when you are afraid.

Fr. Michael said...

Dear Barbara,
"With the fear of God, with faith and with love, draw near." Part of our problem is that we are not used to experiencing fear and faith and love together. We associate love with control, or at least predictability. We have nothing in our culture that approximates personal, kingly power; so the concept of loving and being loved by someone with complete and "unmanipulatable" power seems only frightening to us. Yet Aslan is not a tame lion. No one manipulates God. Love and fear of God are not mutually exclusive, but fear and love together is something very different from just fear. St. Paul said that perfect love casts out fear (the kind of fear that produces torment). There is an experience of fear and faith and love together with which it is appropriate to approach God. In fact, I think that when all three are not present when we approach God, we may be suffering from delusion. Please don't despair. God is able to deliver us from our delusions and unite fear and faith and love within us.
Many of the Fathers of the Church say that the Right Hand of God is a reference to Christ.

Barbara said...

Dear Fr. Michael,

Thank you for this helpful response. It brought me some peace. I think what you say about fear and faith and love together is very true.

Thank you, also, for telling me how many of the fathers understood the Right Hand of God. It definitely makes sense, although it was radically different than what I was imagining in my deluded mind :). It also opens my heart to the words of that Psalm in a completely new way.