Recently, I have been hearing the phrase “the fear of the Lord” a lot, in the context of wisdom, ministry, spiritual growth. It seems to be coming up all over the place. Because of that it’s been on my mind. In a recent experience with an unbelieving friend I began to see the phrase from another angle.
It’s great when evangelistic conversations find you instead of going and looking for opportunities. Both are important, of course, but when one falls on your lap it is like a breath of fresh, divine air. I was preparing for a Bible study when a friend of the family stopped by the house and said she locked her keys in her house and wanted to know if she could hang out for a bit. She asked me what I was working on and I asked her if I could read her something to see if it made sense to her. I was teaching 3 ways to live, religious, irreligious and the gospel, from Tim Keller’s Gospel in Life.
I explained each way to live taking my time to explain the gospel approach since it is far less intuitive. She caught on quite quickly, however, she asked several insightful questions. Her most profound, though, took me time to understand what she was really saying. She asked, “If Jesus died, back then, so that those people could be right with God, on the basis of when He did and not what they could do themselves, what about now doesn’t He need to do it all over again?”
At that very moment my friend didn’t need a theological lesson on why Christ’s death was sufficient for all people, at all times. The Gospel message had reached her heart and she wanted to know was it for her personally that God was willing to suffer and die. She had understood the gospel quite clearly and rather than joy the prospect of being in relationship with someone who loved her that much and could meet the deepest longings of her heart, it invoked fear and suspicion.
When I asked her why, she responded with one of the most honest answers I’ve ever heard, ‘If I can’t have good relationships with imperfect people here and I manage to mess things up. What will make that relationship any different? That will be one more let down, it would be the ultimate let down’.
It makes sense, if it hurts to be in relationships with people that are messed up, and things fail. How much more would it hurt to be in a relationship with a perfect person and lose them? It would hurt infinitely more.
The truth is that it isn’t just my friend that fears getting too close to God. I do the same thing. My heart only knows let down, it seems. My default is to guard and protect my heart. But, as I am learning, to be in relationship with Jesus, a guarded heart just won’t do. He wants in, all the way in, because it is there He does His divine work of renewing our hearts so that we don’t need to live guarded anymore. He wants us to be free, free to love.
The only One that can answer the question of her heart is God. Only God the Father knows how much it hurts to lose someone that is so perfect and love them so fully. On the Cross Jesus was separated from the Father, not for anything He did, but because we had messed up the relationship, severely. He went to the Cross and experienced the full pain of losing that perfect love. His promise is He will never lose us or forsake us; because He became lost and forsaken by the ultimate love, so we never will.
When that promise is spoken into our hearts, it is set free to truly love, and to experience true love.