My childhood wasn’t always happy. From the ages of 5-15 I was bullied at school and there were problems at home. My rhythm, my role, became one of the victim. So naturally, in relationships that I could control, I played the more subtle,controlling role.
Why? Because I learned to trust no one. Including God.
A God who I was told that unless I followed and believed in, would ruthlessly torture and burn me in hell for all eternity.
I was told this God loved me. But always gently reminded there were consequences if I didn’t do what He wanted of me. I was okay, because I was a Christian, but those who weren’t,
well they were in trouble.
This wasn’t a God of intimacy or who was close by. But a distant and terrifying one. A tyrant. But I simply accepted this is who God was because I had never been told any different.
I got the sense deep inside though that this God was out to get me. Sitting up in heaven just waiting for me to screw up so He could punish me.
The thing was, as I began praying every day to God about the issues in my life – talking to Him only as I had no one else to talk to – I discovered
this wasn’t God at all.
I found God was close, intimate and gentle. He had perfect, unconditional love and grace for me. Asking questions, getting it wrong and having doubts was okay.
The God I’d been sold simply wasn’t the God I was encountering at all.
The God I was praying to, hearing from and building a relationship with was very different.
However, many Christians I have encountered during my life genuinely think it’s okay to see God essentially as a tyrant. Of course the word is never used – the language is very passive, friendly and polite – and of course cleverly backed up by scripture.
But behind the niceties the bottom line is if we don’t believe the right religious thing, if we don’t follow His commandments to the letter, if we do the wrong thing, or forget to repent or confess any sin…
…then terrible, awful things are going to happen to us for all eternity. Even now.
But what they are talking about is actually better described as
the terror of the Lord.
A wrathful Father
You see, view actually encourages people to be scared of God. Especially if we don’t follow God’s rules to the absolute letter. It doesn’t say that in so many words, but let’s be honest, that’s what it is.
Faith rooted in fear. Unhealthy fear.
This fear is named the fear of the Lord, but it’s not. It’s terror of the Lord.
Christians who believe this view of God subconsciously become desperate to please, to impress God. To get as much credit in the spiritual bank as possible to ensure they are ‘in’.
This God is about rule-keeping, religion and doing the right thing. Like a headmaster keeping an eye on us all the time so we keep in line, doing and believing the right things, never dare questioning Him. Who sometimes holds back healing because of ‘unresolved sin’ (as if only a small minority have unresolved sin…).
This God essentially wants us to be scared of Him. Even terrified.
I’m sold already, aren’t you?
is this really who God is?
I mean honestly, who wants to follow or trust a God they are scared of?
Who can genuinely trust a Father who they are worried will punish them in flames for all eternity and has them tiptoeing around trying to please them? A Father who has an terrifying, angry wrath that dare not to be provoked? What kind of Father is that anyway?
If any of our Fathers acted like that, we’d try to avoid them at all costs.
Truth is, it’s a toxic and distorted view of God.
And. It’s. Wrong.
God isn’t about terror.
He is perfect grace and love. He is shalom, healing, forgiveness, truth and justice – all completely
Available to us all, if we choose to receive and accept them.
He wants us to explore, ask questions and doesn’t condemn us – but liberates us.
This God knows us fully and is on our side. He sees our messiness, our sin, our shame, our anger, our mistakes – but loves, forgives and blesses us anyway.
That’s the definition of grace. That’s exactly what makes Him God.
This God is far more worthy of ‘fear’ than one who is only going to bless me if I do the right thing, believe the right thing and say all the right prayers. More worthy of my trust than a Father who makes me terrified of Him – loving one minute and angry the next.
The fear of the Lord isn’t the terror of the Lord.
It’s recognising that God is bigger, more loving and more powerful than all our knowledge, experience, achievements, imagination and creativity can ever fathom, know or understand.
Accepting that nothing we can ever experience, know, achieve or imagine can give us the final answer to God.
That there will for the rest of time be mystery and unknown when it comes to God.
Simply, a recognition that we are not God
and He is.
Do you agree with me? Why/why not?
What is your view of God?
Are you scared of God, rather than fearing Him?
Do you think that God could really call Himself a perfectly loving God if He wanted us to be scared of Him?
James Prescott is a writer & creative exploring digital media & divine journey of life. He blogs regularly at James Prescott.co.uk & is a regular guest blogger atbigbible.org.uk and other sites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.