Let’s face it: religion can seem contradictory to itself, regardless of the name or denomination. The concept that we should fear God, but at the same time love Him/Them, is just one of many conflicting messages to come across. Because, at face value, it really doesn’t make sense.
If I love something or someone, that probably means that person or thing makes me feel safe and secure. That they show me compassion and love in return. That I admire them for many reasons that beckon me closer. On the counter note, if I fear something or someone, I’ll be running for the hills.
To fear God, I see, is no exception to this mentality. As if the world doesn’t already drive us to unprecedented amounts of anxiety, why should we add God to that list? Rather than adding God to our list of things to fear, let’s instead focus upon love.
why fear God?
I see much of the fear surrounding God originating in religious texts like the Old Testament. Which, reasonably enough, depicts a pretty scary God. One that speaks through burning bushes, that banishes people from gardens, and gives strict rules to follow or else feel vengeance.
A version of God that also provokes fear is one that has a “chosen people.” This God says He is the only Way, and we must prepare for the events of Revelation in case we’re not included in the elite few.
Whether it translates in my writing or not, I’m pretty critical of this God. This is the God people name when condemning the “other,” whomever that may be at the given moment. Sure, this God has some mercy in there, but He’s constantly judging your every thought and action. And the only way to access that mercy is if you guilt yourself and confess every dirty detail.
When we encourage people to fear God, I see the perpetual cycle of spiritual trauma and wounding persisting. That image of God as an old white guy in the clouds continues, even though that alienates a vast majority of our world. Simply put, a God we should fear is not one I believe in.
love over fear.
What’s the alternative to fearing God? Well, turns out, a lot of possibilities. In fact, I’d bet that a vast majority of us, when given the option, would opt for an alternative to a “scary God.”
When considering our imagery surrounding God, an important question to ask yourself is, Why do I believe or have faith in the first place? Your intentions behind pursuing a spiritual path matter. Blindly going through the motions of a religion or spiritual belief defeats the purpose.
Authentic spirituality, at its core, should be based on morality, but more importantly, your values. Moving through the world, we will all make mistakes, as is human. But should our focus drift to reliving mistakes to ask for mercy, or to taking action to continue growing?
However you see free-will, the absence or limitations, we still have choices within our means. A major one, perhaps our most important decision, is how we respond to ever-evolving world surrounding us. That’s where spirituality should come in.
fear not, for God is near.
The world provides enough fear for us to fall into anxiety every given moment. Knowing that God doesn’t exist far beyond the atmosphere, but instead among us and within us, dissipates my fears. Granted, I still have chronic anxiety and can easily zap all my energy into worry and doubt. But my spiritual life serves as a major solace to that.
I want my life to be a testament to God’s presence, right here and now. The Kingdom of God isn’t a castle in the clouds that only “true believers” can access. Rather, that Kingdom is what we’re building and living in with every breath of Spirit we inhale. How we use our time, gifts, and strengths matters.
By preaching love over fear, we shift our perception of the world both visible and invisible. Our priorities turn away from fearing God enough to make it on the heaven VIP list, and they turn toward uplifting love and compassion in all we do. Basically, the glass becomes half full.
There’s still plenty of work to do and reasons to fear what exists before us. For good reasons, too. God should be the salve for those fears and the reason we find courage to face those fears head-on. We should see God in the faces of those we love and those who instill love, not in every sin we confess in a booth.
You may say I’m simplifying all of this too much. On the contrary, I think it’s pretty clear: I don’t trust things that scare me. I fear what’s unpredictable, hate-driven, and ill-intentioned. The God I believe in can feel unpredictable in whatever plans have been set for, but my God is entirely love. I hope yours is, too.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie
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