Not So Safe
Ever since I was a child I have heard about "the fear of God." The fear of God I was told was the beginning of wisdom. But what does that mean? And how does it connect with we live out our lives as followers of Jesus Christ? I'm reminded of the title of that famous sermon of Jonathan Edwards "Sinners in the hands of an angry God." Certainly the story of Noah and the Flood paints a picture of that. And there are many other moments throughout scripture when a God that causes us to shake is brought up. But I think the fear of God is less about God's anger towards us -- as it is how scary it is to follow Jesus. Following Jesus -- loving our enemies, giving up our cloak as well as our coat, forgiving seventy times seven...that is tough. It's not easy being a Christian and honestly, it's not all that safe.
In his book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe C.S.Lewis throws some light on the way I think of this. Lucy is about to meet Aslan, the lion (the Christ figure in the story), and she asks, "Is--is he a man?"
"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion--the lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he--quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
"Of course he isn't safe." Gosh, do I love that expression...it challenges me to remember how to live my faith. It challenges me to remember what is important. It challenges me not to look for the safe way (I'm not talking about looking for the dangerous way - just not shying way from it in following God's call in our lives).
Today I was talking with my mother-in-law and telling her about the Clergy Renewal Grant that Broadway was just awarded that will send our family to South Africa next summer (more on that in a later posting). During that time Broadway will get a chance to hear some great preachers from around the country -- as well as the exceptional leadership around Broadway of Rachel and Jack and Chris and others on our staff. I mentioned to her that in the grant we wrote that their would be a going away party and a welcome back party for our family -- and we wrote in money for a live band in both instances. She asked me why we would do something like that? And I said -- "because we need to party because following Jesus can be tough."
Following Jesus isn't safe. Meeting Jesus isn't safe. It has changed my life -- thrusting me into situations I would have never stepped into if it weren't for his call upon my life. I have stood in crack houses in the middle of the night -- because I've followed Jesus. I have found myself in the middle of fights because of Jesus. I have done things that have upset others around me, and upset my church superiors -- things that could cost me my job -- all because I am trying as best I can to follow Jesus. I have had to give up some things I have longed for because of Jesus. Following Jesus isn't safe. It's scary. And yet nothing in my life has been as rewarding.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom -- but it looks like foolishness to the world's eyes.