Grace and Fear

Life Notes—July 19, 2012

“For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him…”  Psalm 103:11

“’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”  From Amazing Grace, John Newton, 1779

What does fear have to do with grace and love?  It seems odd, doesn’t it, that scripture admonishes us many times to “fear” God, and yet describes God as one who loves us so completely?  Where does fear fit when we are to love and be loved?  It was the writer of Amazing Grace, during the time of our Revolutionary War, who claimed that grace both taught him how to fear and relieved those same fears.  I once read that substituting the word “awe” for fear comes closer to what is meant in scripture; that in fearing God we are recognizing the awesomeness of God.  So we fear God in the same way we might fear looking out over the edge of the Grand Canyon—we see something so amazing and so much larger than our life that we stand in a state of awe that is similar to fear.  Our fear rises in direct proportion to the awesomeness we perceive. And so does our amazement. 

But consider love and vulnerability.  If we are to love something or someone deeply, we must allow ourselves to become vulnerable.  And the more vulnerable we allow ourselves to be, the more capable we become to experience the blessings of love, while knowingly opening ourselves to the possibility of greater and deeper hurt should the object of our love turn against us.  Love requires trust—that as we make ourselves vulnerable, love will provide a return equal to or greater than the risk of hurt.  Divorce is usually very painful because two people join their lives together—making themselves extremely vulnerable to another—and then that love is withdrawn.  The hurt they feared in first giving themselves over to another materializes. 

So there is a natural component of fear in love.  Clearly a decision to make ourselves vulnerable to hurt is a fearful decision.  We cannot directly see, touch or hear God but as faithful Christians we are to turn our entire lives over to this invisible being.  And the more trust we place in God, the more frightening it can be.  The less trust we place in God—the “safer” our relationship—the less likely we are to recognize God’s blessings and protections.  So we are called to acknowledge the awesomeness of God, putting our complete trust in God, becoming vulnerable to God so that we can receive and recognize God’s blessings in abundance.  It can be frightening and amazing at the same time. 

Both Tom and Mitch continue their seven-week series on David this Sunday, Tom downtown and Mitch at the west campus.  Their sermon title will be “City of David, City of God,” based on 2 Samuel 6:16-23.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  West campus worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday. Grace is amazing when we are vulnerable enough to fear.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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