March 13, 2010

"When you get rid of the fear of the Lord, you don't get fearlessness..."

Mark Shea, The Gift of Fear:

...On the other hand, in confirmation, God does give gifts, first among them a gift our culture despises. Sirach 1:12 sums it up: "To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; she is created with the faithful in the womb."

We don't much care for the fear of God these days. We prefer to hear about self-empowerment, self-esteem, self-affirmation and just plain self. We have whole magazines devoted to the notion that the first shall be first, that you must find your life in order to find it, and that the way to happiness is to seek first the things of this world. Fear of God doesn't fit into programs like that. It's "disempowering," don't cha know, an affront to our dignity and a relic of that nasty Old Testament God who wants everybody to cower before him like the Great and Terrible Oz. We've outgrown all that.

But, of course, there's fear and there's fear. And the funny thing is, as our civilization is discovering, when you get rid of the fear of the Lord, you don't get fearlessness. You get servile fear: fear of What People Will Think, fear of environmental disaster, plague, terrorism, political incorrectness, death, STDs, war, divorce, economic meltdown, the future, headlines and things that go bump in the night.

It is often only belatedly that we realize that the Gospel comes, in part, to cast out such cringing, crawling servile fear. When we do finally take a hard look at the fear of the Lord, we discover that Jesus feared God, but he never cowered before his Father. On the contrary, his courage has been the model of the courage of all the saints.

There is a confidence, a free and easy step, in the stride of the saints that is in sharp contrast to the craven cowardice of the bureaucrats of atheistic totalitarian regimes who began with bold promises to liberate us from the fear of God and ended in lickspittle prostration before the terrors of Mao, Hitler and Stalin. For the fear of God is the awe and reverence due what is truly good, not a mere cowering in the face of Power. If you want to get a glimmer of it, look not to the Cowardly Lion, trembling before the terrors of Oz, but to the sense of awe any sane person should feel under the immensity of a summer night — and before its Maker....

It seems paradoxical to say that fear of the Lord casts out fear. But really it's like the old legal maxim, that "The man who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client."

Posted by John Weidner at March 13, 2010 10:11 PM
Weblog by John Weidner