Monday, January 16, 2012

Fear of God

Mark 9:30-32 (ESV)
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, [31] for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise." [32] But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
“But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” Afraid to ask. I suppose I can understand. I doubt they though Jesus would fly off the handle at them. More they were afraid of what the answer might be, and what it might mean for them. The fear got in the way of their understanding in the first place. Sometimes when I hear other people rant and rave against Christianity, I sense this same fear. I only know of one man to ever articulate this fear, “Thomas Nagel” in “The Last word.” But I suspect it nonetheless, in many others.
I suppose the history of Christianity is one that gives people reason to fear. Bad theology leaves deep wounds that might not ever heal. Being a physician of the soul becomes a scary proposition when you realize that improperly dividing law and gospel can completely destroy a person. And you can error both ways mind you. It isn’t always as simple as concentrating on the gospel, do that to the detriment of the law, and you can have just as bad a problem, but the opposite as you have when you concentrate on the law to the detriment of the Gospel. But then too much Gospel, is usually not a matter of Gospel at all, but a matter of ignoring God’s word all together and replacing his law with the law of man, so that people feel guilty not for engaging in perverted acts of homosexuality, but for feeling sick to their stomach when a gay guy hits on them. As one friend put it, he is confronted by a pietism of the left arguing for Green energy and gay rights, and a pietism of the right arguing against the ordination and blessing of GALA. Both miss the Gospel. Both misuse the law.
And this is a problem that crosses denominations. I mean I’ve talked to ex Roman Catholics that are scarred from their experiences with confession. I meet ex Baptists giving horror stories about hellfire and brimstone sermons. I meet Lutheran’s carrying a weight put upon them by pietism. I’ve seen friends lose their demons at revivals only to have seven return when the experience goes south. I think we need to be honest, the church, bad theology, gives people reason to be afraid. It makes them afraid of God.
To be honest, it’s really the reason I became a pastor. I only did so after going to church for two years and not ever hearing the gospel. Now that I’m a pastor, I spend a lot of time wondering if I handled such and such a case well or not. Perhaps dwelling on the past doesn’t do much good, I like to think that I can learn and perhaps do better in the future, and then some days I’m left realizing God did what he wanted to do despite my best efforts to stop him.
But this fear, fear to ask. Can we blame one for having it? Sometimes I’m given the impression they are the smart ones. They see from the outside in. They don’t always see what we do, but they stand before a great mystery, and fear to hear God’s voice lest they die. And die they will. Die just as you and I died when we heard God’s voice in baptism where we drowned, where we were buried into Christ’s Death, where God took our lives from us. It’s a scary thing. God is not to be take lightly. He does take our life. His voice does kill us. And we so nonchalantly run around, treating God’s word with trite cliché’s, sticking it on Billboards, and bumper stickers, and wondering why the whole world doesn’t just bow and see the wisdom and beauty of Christianity. Hmm. God’s law, God’s word is not something to be treated with such triteness. We should be found idiots for doing so.
But then When one looks on the gospel, on jesus Christ dying for the sins of the world, on Jesus Christ rising from the dead. When one sees in hindsight, what the disciples could not make out before hand though Jesus spoke clearly, doesn’t that fear look silly? There God is, forgiving our sins, and yet we sinners let fear get in the way of asking what exactly he was doing on the cross in the first place. He was dying for you.

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