Whom To FearFr. Barnabas Powell
It scared me to death! I was convinced something was lurking in the dark in my room, and I wasn’t about to shut my eyes! After all, it was only my constant vigilance and watchfulness that was keeping whatever was “out there” away from me, right? Imagine my surprise when sleep finally took me and I woke up the next morning unharmed! Such is the life of a 7 year old whose mind has convinced him that the shadows in his room are not empty!
But hey, now that I’m grown up I’m not afraid anymore! Yeah, right! Now my fears are much more nuanced and hidden. Now my fears manifest themselves as “caution” or “prudence” or even “religious.” Now I’ve dressed up my fears so that they don’t look like fear; they look like “maturity.” And yet, the end result is the same: A life lived within the too small boundaries of my own, limited, sight rather than the borderless freedom of a life lived from the perspective of confidence in God and His eternal life shared freely with me.
In fact our whole lives are defined by what we fear! Fear things too small and life is too small. Finally fear that which we should fear and the vistas of the possible break open for what we can become!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today: Luke 12:2-12. Here the Lord is attempting once again to push back the borders of our thinking to open us up to the truth of the Presence of God in the world! We won’t quote the whole passage, but here is the section to focus on today!
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:4-7
Turns out the one thing we must fear isn’t fearful at all! In fact the One we must fear, loves us more than we, ourselves, know how to love. But the focusing power of authentic awe and wonder is at the heart of how we are to finally put away all lesser fears and embrace Him Who is truly “awful” and worthy of our humble confession of the limits of our rational minds – God Himself. But the Lord mixes this wisdom that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) with the equally awe inspiring truth that this “Awful” God loves us more than anything else! This powerful mix of deep respect and eternal love makes a powerful combination in the heart of a man that banishes the lesser fears that enslave a man to smaller versions of himself and what he could be. All those other “fears” that compete to be “god” in our hearts instead of the true Lord of Glory enslave our lives to mere existence instead of the free and joyful life of one who has abandoned all other fears to embrace the only true “fear” that will give him life! All other fears enslave and ultimately destroy us. Only this “fear” sets us free to order our lives and set our priorities based on the only Truth that matters: God loves you and know who you are and invites you to be His eternal companion.
Today, what are the fears that keep you enslaved to a lesser version of yourself? Are you afraid of confrontation? Are you afraid of being hurt? Are you afraid of poverty, failure, success, or any other lesser fears that border your possibilities in too small ways? All of the wisdom of the faith is meant to reorient you and the way you think to finally put away all those lesser fears unworthy of a person created in God’s image and loved by God more than the sparrows, and embracing this Orthodox Way heals these lesser fears and opens you up to the only fear your should ever have. And then, this Way reveals that this “fear” isn’t really like any of the other “fears” of our lives, but this “fear” is the embrace of the fire of God’s love that is meant to burn away everything that is not like Him in our lives. Today, it’s time to trade all of my other “fears” for this one, singular “fear” that paradoxically sets me free from all fear and invites me into a life of love and freedom. As St. Anthony says “I no longer fear God, I love Him, and perfect love casts out fear!”
P.S. One of the companions of fear is grief. But Grief is a natural and proper reaction to any loss. So, how does our Christian faith inform, shape, and help us pass through Grief well? This Sunday night on Faith Encouraged LIVE my special guest, who is no stranger to loss and grief, Fr. James Ellison, will share his story and insights about how the Orthodox faith shapes us in such a way that we grieve as believers. That’s this Sunday night at 8 PM Eastern/7 PM Central on AncientFaith.com. I am looking forward to talking with you this Sunday night!