One thing I’ve noticed in working with churches around the country is that many Christians have an unbalanced view of God. In today’s “culture of tolerance,” many have assumed God is just as tolerant and unbothered by sinful behavior as is politically correct at the moment. We’ve presented a picture of God as being full of grace, love and peace–and that’s correct, but what about the “Lion” part of God? He is, after all, the “Lion” (Revelation 5:5) and the “Lamb” (Revelation 5:12).
Would some among our Christian community have such a sense of entitlement to God and everyone else if we dusted off some of the other pages in our Bibles that tell of an almighty, powerful, even dangerous God?
Solomon said, “This is the end of the matter. All has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew is quoting Jesus in this passage and note that He (Jesus) tells us to “be afraid” of God. The worst villain in a horror movie can’t send anyone to hell, but God can. A healthy dose of fear helps put things in perspective and Jesus advised us to remember who we are to really fear.
I wish I could be poetic and use pretty words to say that the fear we should have for God is not the kind of fear we see displayed in movies like Jason and Freddie Kruger. But my definition is fairly similar. As the Bible says, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). God has the power to destroy me, and I deserve it. Even if I didn’t deserve it, there is no earthly court or lawyer to defend me–I am absolutely helpless and powerless.
That fact about God will never disappear. Even with His breathtaking love, mercy and grace, He is still the God who decided He would kill Abraham in the night, but changed His mind because of Sarah’s pleading. He is the God who flooded the earth in order to kill every human except for one family.
When I was in college, it was very trendy for Theology majors to write about the grace and love of God. They often wrote short articles that seemed to be love letters. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that and I think it is a great thing to do. But respect for entering into God’s presence seemed to be diluted as people started viewing God as a grandfatherly figure so desperate for our time and attention that He overlooked our sins.
Don’t misunderstand–I stand in awe of the love of God and can’t put into words the love I have for Him. But I am also afraid of Him because His power is so much beyond any monster or super hero I could possibly imagine. So when temptation parades itself in front of me, I have an easier time turning it away because I fear God. There are other reasons including the fact that I love God and don’t want to hurt Him by my actions. But I also fear Him because I know that He holds the right to my next breath. Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “..be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
The difference between my fear of God and the fear shown in horror movies is that God is not hunting me down. He’s not chasing me to kill me. His love propelled Him to die for me and He wants a relationship with me, but His power is far beyond Freddie or Jason and for that, I fear Him. But I love Him as well. He is the ultimate being in all of existence and I am a peanut shell under His mighty foot. That fact isn’t exactly poetic or pretty, but it’s reality and accepting that helps me serve Him better. I love Him, but I fear Him too. I constantly struggle for balance and I think we should all strive to view God as He is entirely without removing the parts we don’t like.