Today’s Daily Lesson comes from 1 John chapter 4 verses 17 and 18:
17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
The fear of God is a part of most if not all of our spiritual journeys. We were either taught to fear or God and/or the fear of God was innately apart of our early spiritual consciousness. Though some would say the fear of God is always a result of a misguided understanding of God and oftentimes abusive teaching about who God’s character, I am more inclined to think the fear of God is a natural, though perhaps immature, response to the holiness of God. To fear this holy other One seems to be an inherent and instinctive response and ought not be dismissed as altogether inappropriate. In fact, fear may be the most primal initiating force in the spiritual journey. For as the Scripture says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of all wisdom.”
But as fear may be the beginning of the spiritual path it is never the end. A spiritual journey which ends in the fear of God and God’s judgment and wrath is an incomplete journey. It is a journey which has not yet made it out of the woods and found its way into the spacious meadow known we call love. It is not until the path opens us to that meadow that we can say our journey is completed. And it is there in the meadow that the cold fear and judgment of ourselves and the desire for fear and judgement of others melts in the light of the knowledge of God’s love for us and for all others — even our enemies. This is the completed journey of love. And as today’s lesson reminds us “Perfect love” — love made complete — “casts out all fear.”
At a very critical moment in my own life it was the fear of God that brought me to a place of surrender to God. I was not afraid of burning in hell, but I was very afraid of dying and coming face to face with the truth that I had not lived to be who I was created to be. This was the truth and the fear of God; and honestly I am thankful for it. But now, further along on the path and nearer the meadow, I know something deeper and truer about God. And what I know is this: that the fear of God which was the beginning of the path will step by step ultimately bring me into the love of God which shall without doubt be its end.
And with that then I quote that 17th century poet and lover whose own trepidations put him on a path of surrendering his own life to the holy order of God, John Donne:
“The love of God begins in fear,
And the fear of God ends in love.”