This is the big one isn’t it? I think all of our fears originate from this one. Basically the fear of the unknown. The future that is as dark as our deepest fears. Our guilt from our past actions projected onto an unknown future inhabited by an angry God. If not God than the capriciousness of life itself which many have blamed on an angry God. Natural disasters for instance. Why has God done this to me? Why has God allowed this to happen. Why doesn’t God stop all the suffering in the world? If these tragedies are occurring to others and I happen to be left out at the moment they only forecast my possible future.
My hope in exploring this difficult topic is not to answer completely why all these calamities befall the human race but to answer why we need to project our fear of the future onto God. Which, by the way has not answered anything. This projection only moves our fears into a truly unsolvable dilemma. We can fool ourselves into thinking we have some control of the outside forces in this world—it’s painfully obvious we don’t—much less the anger of an unknowable God. If we claim we know God but are still afraid of Him I don’t think we know Him at all.
As far as I can tell the purpose of most religions is to end our suffering by alleviating it on earth and completely dispelling us of any future visions of suffering via God. Buddhism points out that the world is indeed a place of suffering and then gives us it’s particular method of freeing ourselves from it. It denies the concept of God but also tells us that concepts themselves are the cause of our suffering. It is our concepts of God that will keep us from knowing God if we choose to take that route. As Christians we get our concepts of God from the Bible and so I will explore a few verses in hopes of dispelling that concept.
Moses gave us the Ten Commandments the sole purpose is to keep us from causing suffering to our neighbors and by result to ourselves. However to alleviate the ensuing guilt from not keeping the commandments an institution of bloody sacrifice was implemented where our guilt was projected onto a scapegoat who’s death took away our guilt for a short time. These sacrifices unfortunately did not fix the problem of suffering.
Jesus echos these commandments and gives us the Cliff Notes version to love God with all our being and our neighbor as our-self. In the Beatitudes—Jesus’ version of the Ten Commandments—he elaborates by telling us in more detail how to do this. I think Jesus’ mission was to show us we had nothing to fear whatsoever from God.
In the Sufis’, a mystical version of Islam, (I have not read the Koran only the writings of the mystic Rumi and other excerpts of the Sufi tradition) the end of suffering comes with total surrender to Allah in all of life. And complete acceptance of what ever happens as the will of Allah. The experience of unity with Allah ends our incessant fear of future punishment.
Since I am most familiar with the Christian traditions I will explore Jesus’ answer for ending our fear of God. His life and teaching do echo all the other mystical traditions I have read—unity with God and love for our fellow man. His teachings do point out God is not angry with us—never was nor ever will be—and we have nothing to fear now or in the future.
Jesus’ mission statement
Jesus is in the synagogue on the Sabbath and he is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he chooses chapter 61 verses 1-2 and some of chapter 58. In Luke 4.16-22 we find: “The Lord’s Spirit is upon me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind to free everyone who suffers, and to say this is the year the Lord has chose.” CEV.
Isaiah’s version: “The spirit of the sovereign LORD is upon me, because he has chosen me. He has commissioned me to encourage the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to decree release of the captives and the freeing of prisoners, and to announce the year when the LORD will show his favor, the day when our God will seek vengeance, to console all who mourn.” NET
Jesus states his version is the one fulfilled by him and his mission. I find it very telling he left out the phrase “…the day when our God will seek vengeance…” As someone chosen by God to demonstrate who God really is vengeance is not part of his ministry at all. Jesus goes on to say in verse 21; “What you have heard me read has come true today.” I can’t think of any better news than that we have nothing to fear from a vengeful God. There is only comfort and healing in Jesus’ words and deeds.
I do not think this was an accidental omission on his part. He did take the time to pick and chose what he wanted to point out to us because he not only reads from chapter 61 but also chapter 58 of Isaiah.
Luke’s version also includes some of Isaiah 58.6 part of which says “…to set free the oppressed and to break every burdensome yoke.”
I can’t think of any more burdensome yoke than to be in this life constantly afraid. Buried in the hidden rooms of our soul is the fear of God whether we believe in him or not. It is from this primal fear that all other fears grow. Not recognizing who we are afraid of we project all our daily fears onto others and make them responsible for our inner terror. This then fools us into thinking that if we can change the “other” (whatever is outside us we see as the cause of our suffering) we will then be free of fear. We then give ourselves permission to do anything including killing to achieve this end. If we don’t blame others we then blame ourselves and set about to deaden ourselves through all the distractions available to us today. Both of these dynamics are at work in us at the same time, as we escape into media it reinforces the idea there is danger out there and the terrorist is right at our doors. The victim and the victimizer have become the same.
The beginning and the end of wisdom and beyond.
Psa. 111.10 “The beginning of wisdom is the awesomeness of Lord Jehovah, and his Servants have good understanding; his glory stands to eternity.” The Aramaic Bible in plain English.
And again in the NIV. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” Notice here that when the translation of the Old Testament manuscripts went from Aramaic to Greek awesomeness was replaced by fear. Then it has to be explained that this type of fear is really awesomeness. But fear is fear no matter how much we try to explain our way out of it. If the Greek translators actually meant awesome why didn’t they use it?
The Amplified version adds ‘reverent’: “The reverent fear and worship of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom and skill [the preceding and the first essential, the prerequisite and the alphabet]; a good understanding, wisdom, and meaning have all those who do [the will of the Lord]. Their praise of Him endures forever.”
Ecclesiastes 12.13 echos this sentiment “All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.” Amplified Bible
In the Old Testament the writer of Ecclesiastes after searching through all the possibilities of life discovers that nothing else will satisfy him but the fear, respect or reverence for God. He then has come to the beginning that the Psalmist tells us about as the beginning of wisdom. The writer of Ecclesiastes can now finally begin to live a really fulfilled life.
I Timothy 1:5 “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” NAS. Could a pure heart mean freedom from fear?
I John 4:16-18 talks about realizing that goal; “God is Love; and he who dwells in love abides in God. Herein is love made perfect in us, so that we may have boldness [not subservience] in the day of judgment; because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, because fear is tormenting. He who fears is not made perfect in love.” Lamsa’s Aramaic translation of the Bible. (Brackets mine.)
There is a quote from Jesus in Luke where on the surface he tells us to fear God.
As Jesus says many times; “do not to be afraid” equating fear with doubt several times (see Luke 24.38). Is fearing God or anyone actually doubting God? How can the fear of God which we are told to do be doubting God. Is it because the God of vengeance we have known is not the God Jesus wants us to know. I’m not talking about two different Gods but a raising of our consciousness from one of fear to one of Love as John pointed out.. The purpose of his ministry is to show us an end to fear. All fear. Including the fear of God. It is we who projected our fears of the unknown onto God and called him “The God of fear”
Why is the fear of God the beginning of wisdom? Jesus points out in Luke 12:4-7; “My friends, don’t be afraid of people. They can kill you, but after that, there is nothing else they can do. God is the one you must fear. Not only can he take your life, but he can throw you into hell. God is certainly the one you should fear! Five sparrows are sold for just two pennies, but God doesn’t forget a one of them. Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don’t be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows.”
First of all don’t be afraid of people-ever. They can kill your body [our bodies are not alive anyway] but you will not die, no one ever dies, because Life cannot die. You are not your body and all fear is based on this body identification.
Then Jesus takes us to the next level of awareness into a level beyond our physical identification; here is the paraphrase from The Message: True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.” After your body dies then what? We are not a body it’s only a container. Jesus points to the deeper place of after we leave our body, then we will have to deal with the consequences of our life while we were in the body.
He starts us at the same place as the Psalmist and says that we should fear God as the beginning of wisdom but then he does a remarkable thing, he paints a picture of God not as a wrathful being who is going to throw—even though he could—into hell but he gives us the picture of a feminine mother figure who feeds and cares for her children. He shows us a God who knows more about us than we do, the number of hairs on our head and he remembers all the tiny sparrows which have fallen to the ground. And we are much more valuable than hair or birds. Does God care and love and nurture what he values? A couple of chapters later in Luke 15 he gives us the story of the prodigal son. This is Jesus’ version of the fall. God throws a party for his wayward children who return to him. As I pointed out in my last post, (Amazed part 2) all of humanity will return willingly to the father/mother God. So there is no reason to be afraid of our Mother God either.
We do start with the acknowledgment of being afraid and he then asks us to place all of our fears of the “other” onto God. He then takes us from the physical into a new interior realm of soul and spirit. It is in this Realit
This obviously does not exhaust the subject of fear but it is a place to start, food for thought. I ‘m sure this raises more questions than answers, I would love to hear from you.