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Fearful Friendship with the Lord? Or Friendly Fear of the Lord?

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

One day, during a consultation with my Professor, he asked me what my shirt meant. It was a Catholic shirt that had a pun about Jesus being the "King of my Life". So, I explained the pun behind it and the meaning of the shirt. As my Prof was Catholic too, I didn’t really need to go into why Jesus was King and all that. However, what he asked next really struck me: can we really be so casual in our relationship with God? How can we be so casual in the way we address the God who created the Heavens and the stars?

It’s true. There’s a lot more Jesus memes and comics being shared throughout the Internet nowadays. And I have to admit that I personally really like many of these comics and memes. So that got me thinking: where’s the line one draws between being affirmed in one’s identity as a beloved Child of God, and downright blaspheming through frivolity? CCC 2144 states: “Respect for his name is an expression of the respect owed to the mystery of God himself and to the whole sacred reality it evokes”. And so, should we really be propagating such comics or memes or even jokes about God? I think to answer this queston, we have to reflect on the image we have of God, which stems from our own relationship with Him.

We know that one of the most misunderstood gifts of the Spirit (at least in my limited experience in teaching Catechism) is the Fear of the Lord. Generally, we often associate fear with notions of being frightened, anxious, wary and afraid. However, one of the original meanings of the word ‘fear’was revere. To revere and be in awe of the Lord. In 2014, Pope Francis spoke of this gift of the Spirit. He likens this to the attitude one adopts in the face of paternal love. He reinforces that this gift does not mean being afraid of God. However, it “is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace”. Romans 8:15-16 talks about the spirit of adoption.

“You have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”, it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

John 15:15 also says:

“I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

We must begin to move away from the idea that God is an impersonal, abstract, almighty being that is judge, jury and executioner. We must shift from this paradigm if we are to fully realize the what the Scripture means when it talks about the spirit of adoption and our friendship with God. If we are too fixated on not doing the wrong things, then we lose out on the joy and the peace that comes with recognising our identities as beloved children of God. That is to say, if all we focus on is fearing that what we do or say may be construed as something that could be blasphemous or wrong or mistaken, then where is the freedom that comes from knowing that you are loved despite your mistakes and flaws?

Personally, I think that if we cannot express the intimacy of our relationship with God through what we say and what we do, then we must ask if we can really call such a relationship so intimate that it bleeds out from our actions and our words? Just like how we all know siblings affectionately tease each other (Jesus even gave his own disciples nicknames!), do we dare to be intimate enough with our God that such close interactions become a norm in our lives? CCC 2145 reaffirms this: “The faithful should bear witness to the Lord's name by confessing the faith without giving way to fear.”

However, we must also remember always that just like how our relationships with our parents can be incredibly intimate, such a relationship must be held by respect of the other’s dignity by both parties. In our relationship with God, God obviously dignifies us. Do we dignify him back? Do we afford him the respect that is only right for Him and His Holy Name? Do our memes and comics and jokes give greater glory to Him and His intimate Love for all of humanity or does it detract us from His glory? The second part of CCC 2145 adds that: Preaching and catechizing should be permeated with adoration and respect for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, it is important that just as how we never defile our parents’ name even as we can joke with and about them, we do not stop adoring and respecting the name of our Lord and Saviour. The best guide to this that I think I can give to you and myself as well is to ask: would I do/say/share this about my mother or father whom I love? If I wouldn’t, then why should I do it to the Father in Heaven?

© 2018 Christ Centered Convo/Gregory Adrian Gunawan

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