Sunday, September 21, 2014

Remembering the Fear of the Lord

For they will not mend their ways; 
they have no fear of God. (Psalm 55:20)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
prudent are all who practice it.
His praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10)

When I witness the anger against the Church and her insisting on teachings, over and over I hear the same thing: "God doesn't care about my doing X! The Church is being unfair!" It isn't surprising. In the West, there is a tendency to turn Jesus into a "nice guy" who doesn't care about what we do as long as we don't hurt anybody else while we do it. After all, they ask, didn't Jesus say to love one another and not to judge?

Basically, Western views of Christianity can be summed up as H. Richard Niebuhr put it:

"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross."

In other words, the popular view of Jesus is Christianity stripped of everything which makes it meaningful. He's no different than any other pop guru out there.

But that is not what Jesus had to say to us. He warns us to be holy and to be ready:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matt 7:21-23)

“If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. (Matt 18:15-17)

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)

That's the very opposite of the "Santa Claus" type Jesus people tend to believe in. He is the Way to salvation, but His salvation is not given indifferently. It requires following Him wholeheartedly. It requires fear of The Lord. That scandalizes people . . . especially if they contrast the Old Testament God with the person of Jesus.

Now Fear of the Lord, in the context of the Psalms cited, is not a sort of servile response to a divine argumentum ad baculum from a God who can't wait for you to screw up so He can bash you. 

Fear comes from the word יִרְאַ֬ת  (yir'ah) meaning (in this context): Reverence, Piety, Knowledge (Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, 432).

In other words, if we would be wise and follow God, it requires Reverence to Him (as opposed to presuming that He didn't really mean what He said), Piety (as opposed to thinking a lackluster approach is good enough) and knowledge of His teachings (as opposed to thinking that however I personally interpret what I think the words mean).

Basically, Fear of the Lord can be summed up in the old Catholic saying: Know, Love and Serve God. Know and accept as true what He teaches, follow His teachings out of Love for Him (as opposed to "It's a rule the Church made and I have to do it until they change their mind") and live your life in a way that emphasizes this.

We need to recognize that all too often our passions interfere with knowing, loving and serving God. Either we desire something that we are told is sinful (harmful) for us or we fear losing something if we follow Him. So we "shoot the messenger" and blame the Church . . . as if the Church would invent such strict rules to be odious.

Really, the whole concept of blaming the Church is irrational. If we accept that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be (the Church established by Christ that teaches with His authority), then what she teaches ought to be heeded because she has the authority to bind and loose. But if the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be, then any truth in her teaching is mere coincidence, and it makes no sense to want to remain in her to begin with. (I firmly believe anti-Catholics are wrong and grossly misled, but at least they are more logically consistent in their error than the Catholic dissenter who wants to "change" Church teaching).

Our Western Society has become very foolish. Our society rejects God's commands when people do not want to follow them. Our society will continue being foolish until we realize that we need to turn back to knowing, loving and serving God and not putting our own passions first.

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