Love and Fear

Categories // Sermons

Palm / Passion Sunday

Love and Fear


        Let’s talk about fear and love. Like love, fear is a very powerful emotion. We all have experienced fear. Like love, fear comes in different levels of intensity. Also, the intensity of fear or love is as different to an individual person as people are different from each other. For one person, the fear of a spider crawling upon a wall can cause one person to panic and become exceedingly anxious while to another person, the quick slap of a rolled-up magazine or newspaper comes without any raise in heart rate.

        The Greeks had different words for love, each signifying a different form or intensity. There was passionate love, brotherly love and the ever challenging, all encompassing love for humankind no matter what the relationship.

        Unsurprisingly, the Greeks also have different words for fear. There is the fear that means a lack of courage or to be cowardly. There is the word of fear for something or someone being terrifying and alarming. We have even assimilated this Greek word into our own language; it is where we get the term phobia. The Hebrew language also has words for great dread and just plain old everyday fear.

        One would think that, although not complete opposites of each other in definition, these two words – fear and love – in no way belong together. It would be quite a struggle to find a situation where these two would in any way be joined. Yet in dealing with God, we see both love and fear in our relationship.

        As humans we fear what one can do to another. After all, we kill each other in wars, in street violence and even sometimes with the law of society. We may fear our natural appetite for sin that enslaves us or causes us harm; such as, drug abuse, sexual immorality and physical self-harm by many various means. These are all true and real fears but they are all of this world and of our own making. These fears are caused by our interaction among ourselves in this realm.

        But what about God? Is there a ‘Holy Fear’ that we acknowledge in our apprehension of a living God? The answer is yes. A true believer of an all-powerful God, the very Creator of heaven and earth and all things is truly something to fear. There is certainly something to be said about power, strength and might.

        Earlier this year, a black bear was hanging out, literally, in the trees around the church in St. Ignatius. The Fish and Game department was called and they set out a trap for the bear. Later that week, the bear was captured. I decided to take a picture of the bear in its cage.

        The only openings in the steel cage were very narrow, barred slits. I had to put my face right up to the opening in order to get a look at the bear. It was dark in the metal trap and the bear was black, so I had trouble seeing him. As I looked closely into the cage the bear decided he had enough of the situation and lurched in the confines at me and growled.

        Suddenly the bear was not so little, not so cute, and not very happy. I knew I was safe on my side of the steel cage and that this animal could not reach me, yet I was afraid. The strength and power that emanated from this mass of muscle, claws and teeth struck, I guess one might say my primal fear deep within my being. If that bear could talk and tell me, ‘Don’t be afraid. I like you and I won’t hurt you’ I would be very happy and even a little relieved, but I would still fear it.

        Take for example Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. After their fall from God’s grace, they became afraid. Why? Because they had broken the very command of God.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” [Genesis 3:8-10]

This was the beginning of the fear of God. Because we had broken our relationship with God, we now came under the rule of His Law. Just like our man-made laws under which we are held accountable, the Law of God is punishable even unto death.

        To make matters worse, we are not able to uphold the Law of God. We fail to obey the Law every day and every day we put our lives in judgment under the Law. We can’t win. We cannot save ourselves or win a reprieve in the court of God. I don’t know about you, but that scares me. I am very afraid of being judged under the Law of God.

        Every man woman and child on God’s good earth knows their sin. Many try to convince themselves that God doesn’t exist and therefore his law doesn’t exist. Others try to run away from God. They try to hide much like Adam and Eve did so long ago, but we all know that God sees us no matter where we are. He sees us as we really are. There is no fooling God with our false praises and worthless works.

        By breaking our faith with God, we released a ravenous beast from his cage. Our enemy is the Devil and he “…prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” [1 Peter 5:8b] Our eternal souls are at stake and nothing on this earth can save us.

        Our fates were sealed until the same all-powerful, almighty God came into this world of sin and death. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16] Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was born of the virgin Mary to become flesh.

        God once again walked in His creation. Jesus Christ as true God did what God has always done; he loved us. As broken, diseased, sin-filled creatures, we were given healing and forgiveness. Many people feared him, after all, he had power over life & death and he exercised that God almighty power in plain sight.

        The people saw God’s return to His people. They saw the kingdom of heaven in Jesus Christ. God once again walked among them. For this they had waited. For this they had prayed. Those who believed saw Jesus Christ as the king from the line of David come to rule over God’s chosen people.

        For this reason:

‘…they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”’ [John 12:13]

“The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.” [John 12:17-18]

Days later, this same Jesus Christ would be beaten, stripped, spat upon, whipped to the point of his flesh being torn from his bones and finally stood in front of a mob who cries, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

        How could a people so happy to see him one day wish to see him dead the next? Contrary to some people’s beliefs, it was not because people are fickle and simply changed their minds. No, these were different people who did not wish to confront the living truth of the living Messiah.

        When I was a child, my father was a traveling salesman. He would travel from city to town and from state to state. Many times, he would be absent for days. When he came home there were two types of reception for him.

        To those family members who loved their father and missed his presence, there was joy and hugs and laughter. They were happy that the ruler of the house was once again home to provide security and love.

        To those family members who had gone against their father’s will (as relegated to mother as second in command), there was fear and crying. Why? Because the return of the master of the house meant judgment was at hand. The promise of, “Just wait ‘till your father comes home!” by mother, now became a fearful reality.

        As children, we could not revoke the authority of our father or the punishment we had earned. Yet those in the city of Jerusalem on that night of darkness broke the covenant with God once again. They rejected their savior and true king. The prowling lion feasted well that night.

        They had thought they had won. They thought the victory belonged to them. They were wrong. For once again, God’s will was not hindered. God gave his only Son as the final and completely pleasing sacrifice for his beloved creation. No greater love is this; that a man gives up his life for another.

        As weak, sinful human creatures, we know not greater fear than that of God almighty, and well we should fear our maker. Yet it is that same all-powerful God that loves us more than anyone could love. It is that same all-knowing God that gives us the ultimate confidence in the salvation of his Son, Jesus Christ.

        With the work of Jesus Christ completed, we can now trust in the Lord. Since we are not perfect, we cannot trust perfectly nor can we love perfectly. The day when our king comes again is the day when we will be made his perfect children. In that day we will know perfect love and perfect love casts out fear. Because of God’s perfect love, Christ has given his life for you. When our king returns, we will shout “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”