Inside: what’s the most important characteristic of God? His holiness? Or His love? And should we be afraid of God?
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We know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom. BUT there’s also no fear in love. So are we supposed to fear God? Or draw close to Him? How do we reconcile these two seemingly opposing views about our relationship with Him?
Sometimes we Christians seem to be divided between 2 camps (in more ways than one). But today we’re focusing on the division between the holiness camp and the grace camp. One shouts that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom and that His holiness is His most important attribute (not saying I disagree). The other shouts that He’s now our Father and that God is love (also not disagreeing with this).
The sweet spot is in receiving the revelation that BOTH of those are fully true.
Who’s Your Daddy?
It makes me think of stories my dad tells—childhood memories of arguing with his friends over whose dad was the toughest.
“My dad could beat up your dad!” As kids, the thought of having the toughest dad in town on YOUR side was something to be proud of. He could be big and intimidating but he loved YOU. He was YOUR protector. What did you have to fear when your dad was the biggest, toughest guy around? Who could mess with you and get away with it?
It’s the same with our Father. Sure, God can be completely terrifying… BUT He also loves us with an everlasting love. His power can shake the very marrow of my bones and would leave me as a quaking, gelatinous puddle… IF He didn’t call me His daughter.
The Holy One
What exactly is holy?
There are several words for “holy” throughout Scripture. But overall, the Strong’s explains it as “to be clean” or “sacred” in the Old Testament. In the Greek of the New Testament, the word to describe God means “right (by intrinsic or divine character…).”
It’s being perfectly blameless on a level that we can’t even begin to fathom because, well, we’re not God.
Such perfection that would need its own blog post (or several books) to scratch the surface, and still our human minds wouldn’t fully be able to comprehend it. So much holiness that anything dark or unclean either 1) perishes or 2) is transformed in its presence. That’s why before the sacrifice of Christ, the presence of God needed to be kept separate from the people. They couldn’t withstand it.
As we read the Word, some scenes may seem a little terrifying. But thank God He made a way for His presence to live within us, transforming us instead of breaking out against us!
[click_to_tweet tweet=”God, in all of His holy glory, is just too much for our humanness to take in. His vastness and perfection are overwhelming. But does that mean we actually need to be afraid of Him? https://plantingvineyards.com/should-we-be-afraid-of-god/” quote=”God, in all of His holy glory, is just too much for our humanness to take in. His vastness and perfection are overwhelming. But does that mean we actually need to be afraid of Him?”]
Reaching to Us Through Jesus
Jesus said that if we’ve seen Him, we’ve seen the Father (John 14:9).
God the Father is HUGE. That alone is scary. His holiness, like we talked about, is on a whole different level.
But in the Word, we see Jesus. We see Him connecting with people. Socializing with those who were broken and hurting and lost and in sin. We see Him restoring lost causes and loving those who the self-righteous saw as hopeless filth. We see Him stooping down and caring for our puny earthly circumstances—things that certainly aren’t eternal.
The shortest verse in the entire Bible—Jesus wept—is all the proof we need (John 11:35). He was moved by compassion for a fleeting circumstance. Lazarus was dead. To us, death may seem like a pretty big deal—an end all be all. But to Jesus, it was only sleeping. He knew He was about to raise His friend from the dead. Yet, He wept. He cared. About us and our human condition. He connected with US. And still does.
For more on His love, check out this post:
Reaching Us Through His Spirit
And if Jesus isn’t enough proof, God sent His Holy Spirit to be with us always. Literally INSIDE OF US.
His HOLY Spirit. Holy. In us.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”One of the great mysteries of God is His ability to create holy space in otherwise unholy vessels and make them new. Just because He chooses to love them. https://plantingvineyards.com/should-we-be-afraid-of-god/” quote=”One of the great mysteries of God is His ability to create holy space in otherwise unholy vessels and make them new. Just because He chooses to love them. “]
Even His perfect holiness and our complete weakness couldn’t keep us separate from Him because HE MADE A WAY.
The veil was torn. What once separated the presence of the Holy God from unclean people was done away with. Then the day of Pentecost took it even further. God said, “no, I’m not going to just dwell among you. I’m going to live IN you!”
Should we be afraid of God?
So we’ve seen Jesus, and we don’t fear Him.
We have the Holy Spirit within us and have no reason to fear Him.
So should we actually be AFRAID of God, the Father?
The Word does tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom. But there are also other verses that seem to contradict the idea of being afraid of God.
So what gives?
Let’s look at the word fear in the Strong’s.
Fear vs… Fear
The Hebrew word for fear of the Lord means, “fearing; morally reverent.” So it IS fear. But it’s not just any type of fear; it’s one attached to reverence.
Reverence in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is defined as, “honor or respect, felt or shown; especially profound adoring awed respect.”
Complete respect and awe of God paired with an understanding of the smallness and fragility of our fleeting human state is not the same as having to truly be afraid of our Creator. It may induce that response in us, but that doesn’t mean it’s His desire that we would truly be afraid of Him.
Look back to His original design for mankind. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. They had full communion with Him. Even after the fall, He continued to show His loving kindness to His people. WITHOUT fear (as we think of it) in the equation.
The Word also says:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
II Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
I John 4:18 (NKJV)
The word there for fear is the Greek word meaning alarm or fright.
If we’re afraid of God, it’s because we don’t fully understand that He truly loves us and would give anything (and already has) for our well-being and relationship with Him.
So Why Did His Presence Induce Fear?
In all honesty there’s probably more than one reason for some of the reactions we see people giving Him in the Word. Let’s look at Mount Sinai.
He descended in smoke and thundering. It would be terrifying to experience the weight of His holiness. To feel the trembling of the earth. Who we are just can’t withstand the magnitude of the fullness of who He is.
Then why can we stand the Holy Spirit within us, you may ask. Each piece of God is different, just like the pieces of us. For more on that, check out this post:
Our Spirits were made perfect at our salvation, making a holy space for the Spirit of God to be able to dwell. Our own personal Holy of Holies within the temple of our bodies. But having the Spirit of God within us is much different than experiencing the full presence and weight of God the Father while we’re in our earthly skin.
However, the overwhelming nature of His presence is not a cause to truly fear the holiness of God. Every signal that He sends us resounds with the same: I love you and am for you.
Ever notice how often God says, “fear not” to His people? The first time is when He came to Abraham (when he was still Abram) in a vision and told him: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) He knows His presence can be a little difficult for us to process, leading to our fear. But He wants us to know we don’t have to be afraid of Him.
He’s holy. But He’s also kind and gentle.
Read the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and the passage in Corinthians on love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Those are all God.
The Revelation of Holiness AND Closeness
God is both completely holy/awe-inducing AND our Father. Not a gray area in the middle, not some mix between the two, not just one or the other or even all of one and a little bit of the other. He’s completely both. And until we understand both, we’re stuck. Either in a self-righteous mentality or a complacent, greasy one.
All the power to live this life in His fullness is held in the understanding of His majesty/might AND His loving kindness toward us.
Until next time,
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