Posted by: matt25 | June 22, 2008

Whom (or what) should I fear?

In Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 10 God tells us
“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 Gehenna.”
Just before that He tells the apostles to fear no one.
Jesus is speaking to them about the persecutions that they will have to face if they are to follow Him.

Still the discussion on fear is a bit unclear. So often in the translations of the scriptures we don’t really get a clear idea of what the story was trying to convey. After all, it was not written in English to start with. It is like that today with the word fear.

We have a certain understanding of the word “fear” based upon our language and culture. That gives us an idea of what God is driving at but it is so much more.

A great painter often starts with a pencil sketch of what later becomes a masterpiece by applying what he knows of color, light, and texture. So let us look briefly look at what else might be meant by fear to the early church because the “Fear of God” is a major biblical theme that has many connotations. I want to touch on just two.

In Proverbs 9:10 it says “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD” here we see that fear is a starting place or a foundation upon which to build wisdom. Another word in English that helps us understand this kind of fear is “AWE”. We see a pale reflection of this kind of fear if we have ever become speechless at the sight of a spectacular sunset or maybe when we experienced the birth of a child and then were overwhelmed by the tiny miracle a nurse placed in our arms.

God is the Creator and we can know something of Him by being in awe of his created order. He knew what he was doing. If we wish to develop wisdom, at every stage of our life we must seek the truth that God shows us and base our actions on that, rather than on what Oprah or the network news tells us to think.

But “fear” also conveys a sense of terror or dread in the face of divine judgment and the punishment that awaits the unrepentant sinner. Compared with the prospects of eternal destruction, nothing with which mere mortals can threaten disciples should be feared.

So fear, understood correctly is something to embrace as Christ embraced the cross. For it is a help to us in living a fully Christian life. Because it drives us to do the right things.

It calls us to seek out a priest to hear our confession.
It leads us to speak out for the Gospel of life when so many call for death.
It strengthens us to stand up for marriage between one man and one woman.
It calls us to call for peaceful solutions to conflicts.
It moves us to come and share in the Eucharist and advocate for the poor.

In all of these things we can see that what it will do is…
Lead us to acknowledge Christ before others
So that he can acknowledge us before His heavenly Father.

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