Sometimes I have to crack open the Old Testament to remind myself that God can be downright scary.
If you ask a person what God does, you’d probably hear responses like this: God loves; God forgives; God helps; God blesses. And he does! He does all of those things. But he also does something else: God harms. Christianity is ultimately a message of love, but at the root there is still a command that we shouldn’t forget, but often do: Fear God.
Often, the problem with my own walk is I forget that God is not just the God of the dead. He is the God of the living. What I mean is sometimes I walk around carelessly believing that God judges the dead, but not the living—that we are free to do whatever we want, and then we’ll die and be accountable. That’s not how it works. The life we live is constantly in the presence of spiritual consequences, both good and bad.
We should love openly. We should love because that’s what God calls us to do. But more importantly than anything, we should love because we fear God. For God so loved the world that he died for our sins—but because God loved the world, he also caused a flood, and brought plague—and because he loves he’s not afraid to do it all over again.
That doesn’t mean that God is responsible for all things bad—that Hati, New Orleans or anywhere else that has been seriously harmed by natural disaster was done at the wrath of God’s fury. If God plagued cities based on the nature of their behavior, then we would all be doomed one hundred times over.
Fearing God means being aware that your actions have consequences; it means that while God forgives all sin, he also disciplines to make sure we are growing. Accepting God means accepting what he can do in your life to make sure you grow instead of diminish.
If we fear God, it means we walk around with a coat of armor; that we protect ourselves from having ever to face him for what we’ve did. It means quivering at the thought that God knows everything that goes through your mind—all those little sins that no one knows about. It means knowing that while God probably won’t strike you down for not helping an old lady cross the street—he could.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of love—so easy that it’s easy to forget that we must also fear.