I once preached a sermon entitled “The F Word.”
It’s easy to say. Don’t really quite know what exactly it means. When used right (wrong?) it’s very powerful. I explained that it sorta has become a dirty word, in a sense. Only because, it’s talked about all the time, but not as nearly practiced. And when we really are forced to figure out what this word means to us, we sort of go back to not (wanting to) knowing the real power behind the word.
The word is, of course “forgiveness.”
Preachers preach it many, many times.
Small group leaders, teachers talk about it many, many times.
Parents teach their children the importance of it.
But. How many of us actually practice it, as many times as we talk about it?
How many of us continue to hold on to grudges for something that happened years ago? How many of us can’t stand the sight of our neighbor? How many of us are angry at someone for reasons now unknown? How many of us found it easier to retaliate than “turn the other cheek?” How many of us would say, “Yea, I pray for him. I pray that he goes to hell!” (True story, after that sermon was preached, someone came up to me and told me that’s what they pray for, but will try to change their prayer.) Me? Check. Check. Check. Check. Che- well, no. I never actually prayed that someone would go to hell. I may have said “Go to hell” but.. I never prayed it. So, half a check. If that’s okay with you.
But. During my devotions this morning (that led to a rare 3-post week and super rare Friday post), I came across another F-word that no longer seems included in our vocabulary. Or at least with the little circle of people I know within our Cal-Pac Annual Conference.
In Philippians 2, Paul instructs us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (v. 12b).
I haven’t heard the word “fear” mentioned with God in a long time. Preaching fear of God is almost a big no-no, it seems like. Funny, though, how many times throughout scripture people were afraid in the presence of God.
According to answers.com (who apparently got the answer from a movie called Facing the Giants), the phrase “Do not be afraid” or similar is mentioned a little over 100 times. (Albeit, a lot of the references do not help my argument. But it’s Friday. So, let’s just roll with it.)
It seems like a lot of us tend to focus on the friendship of God. God is our friend. God is cool. Jesus is my homeboy, yo. He my boy!
And we sort of take advantage of God’s grace and sort of cheapen it. God’s the friend that will always be there for you. Don’t worry, all will be forgiven (even though this is your 1000th time of doing the exact same wrong thing, but God is cool, yo. God’s got your back. God’s your homeboy.)
In my office, next to my Flash, Superman and Batman action figures (NOT DOLLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) is a figurine of Buddy Christ from the movie Dogma.
He stares at me with his ever-bright smile, ever-approving wink, and ever-encouraging thumb up, while pointing at me as to say, “You the man, Joe. You DA MAN!!”
I like my Buddy Christ action figure (again, not dolls!) because 1) I heart Kevin Smith and Dogma and 2) my good friend gave it to me as a birthday gift and 3) it makes me smile.
But. I begin to wonder. Is that the Jesus that I am slowly preaching? Is that the Jesus that we are trying to portray? The Buddy Christ, who’s … well, your buddy!
I’m not saying that we should be fearful of God. I’m not saying that we should be shaking in our boots, knees a-clattering and pants a-wettin’.
But. What has happened to the reverence that comes with the Almighty, All-awesome, Awe-inspiring God?
The only thing I could compare it to is this thing I read somewhere about parents and parenting. The article said that parents were more interested in befriending their child than being a parent.
When I was in college, I was browsing through Blockbuster. There was a mother and a daughter who could not have been over the age of 12. Original Sin had just came out on DVD, and the little girl looked at her mom and said, “Mom. I love Angelina Jolie! Can we get this movie?” You have to know that the cover of that DVD is very risque and there are lots of scene where Angelina and Antonio Banderas are naked… uh.. at least that’s what I’ve heard, anyhow. The mom looked at the cover, the back and said, “Yea. This sounds like a great movie. Get it.”
I knew that as a 20 year old, I was uncomfortable seeing that movie with my friends at the theater. It was just awkward (although, I’m assuming Angelina Jolie was the sole reason for going…) However, I couldn’t imagine why a 12 year old would watch it. And yes, I know this comes off as a bit judgmental, but sometimes, a 12 year old does not need to see Angelina and Antonio simulate sex. But I digress.
The article said that parents find that it is easier to befriend their children than discipline their children. Again, I don’t remember where I read this, so take it with a grain of salt. However, I don’t think it’s a far off accusation in some sense.
You don’t want to be such a disciplinarian (I assume) where your child is afraid of you and can’t approach you with real issues because they are afraid of how you may react. At the same time, you can’t be so lax and the “cool parent” that your child grows up with no boundaries. Fine line. I’m assuming it’s a real, real, real tough line to walk.
I don’t know. I kinda view God that way.
God is loving. What a friend we have in Jesus!
But, I feel like this God should invoke more than a “you’re my BFF!”
Dictionary.com defines reverence: a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.
Maybe it’s just me and my blindness and incompetence, however, that “deep respect” seems to be … a bit shallow in our churches today.
Jesus seems to have taken a celebrity status (you know, we scream, cry, hyper ventilate, run to him, try to capture pictures with him, call his name so that he looks at us, so that we can scream, cry, hyper ventilate) more than a Creator of Everything, All-Powerful, Almighty, Awe-filling, Awe-inspiring status.
I don’t think fearing God should be eliminated from our vocabulary (if it has been.)
After all, Paul says to work out our salvation through fear and trembling.
I guess, the next logical question is, “What does that look like?”
I don’t know. What do you say?
Am I totally off base in saying that fear and reverence isn’t as talked about as much as friendship and love?
Is it just me, that’s blind? Which, btw, is totally plausible.
…but. Something in my heart is telling me that I may not be the only one…