Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fear of the Lord

"Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom," says the book of Sirach (1: 16). It also describes the Fear of the Lord as "honor, glory, gladness, and a crown of joy" (1: 11), yet these days we don't much like the idea of 'fearing the Lord.' We prefere "the love of the Lord" or some other such substitute.

"Are you a God fearing man?" Magneto asks thoughtfully. "Such a strange phrase. I've always thought of God as a teacher; a bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding."

I don't know what school Magneto went to, but I think most of us had at least some level of fear of our teachers (heck, he was taught by Nazi Kevin Bacon: how is that not scary?). Either we feared what they might do to us as punishment, or we respected them enough to fear disappointing them. If we felt neither, then either they weren't much of a teacher or we weren't much of a student.

Does not fear God; only plastics

And that's the thing; we fear things that we respect. We fear that which is greater than ourselves. And we especially fear that which we love.

Every great love is comprised, in part, of fear. To love something is to make ourselves vulnerable to that thing. We become not only vulnerable to grief should something happen to the thing or person we love, but also vulnerable to the one we loved himself. No one can hurt us quite as badly as one whom we love. The rebuke, rejection, or disappointment of a loved one is more cutting and painful than anything else in the world.

To love God means to fear Him; to fear His rebuke, His punishment, His justice more than we would have if we were merely cowed into service by the fear of holy smiting. The punishment of a ruler can be endured and even, in a sense, enjoyed as an act of defiance. But the punishment of a loved one, whose good opinion you value and whose approval you crave, that is a terrible thing indeed. That is something to fear.

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, because the awareness that God is something to fear is the first step in realizing our true position relative to the Creator. It is where the fact that we are dependent beings becomes real to us. Only from that starting point, from the moment we realize that reality does not shift and alter to suit our needs and that there is something (or rather, someone) to whom we will be held accountable, will we be able to see things as they really are.

But there's another aspect to it; to fear the Lord, to be really in awe of this overwhelming power, justice, and love is to desire not to risk losing it for any reason whatever. That's why martyrs face death rather than renouncing the faith: because they fear the just rebuke of the Lord much more than they fear fire or racks. That's why a "God fearing man" is a good man: because he fears the rejection of God more than poverty, disgrace, slander, or any other evil that other men can inflict upon him.

The fact that Magneto does not fear God, and so has no limits to what he might do to acheive his ends, is precisely what makes him a villain. That is what drives all tyrants, fantatics, and even petty criminals; the fact that fear of God has been supplanted by fear of death, or poverty, or suffering, or disorder, or any other such evil. That it is better, if no alternative exists, to suffer all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than to dare risk the justice of God is the truth that silences all evil. Fear the Lord and you will fear nothing else.

The fear of the Lord is the first step in Faith, because it is the recognition of God's infinite superiority and, for lack of a better word, loveableness. We recognize that God is so far above us in terms of power, goodness, and beauty that we must fear Him, rather like how one of the first steps in loving our significant other is getting butterflies in the stomach (yes, 'butterflies in the stomach' is a faint echo of the fear of God). If our love of God doesn't contain fear of Him - if it doesn't even rise to the level of our 'love' for the cute girl who sits behind us in math class - it's not much of a love, is it? 

Vive Christus Rex!

No comments:

Post a Comment