"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna, yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one."
So, who is "that one"? For years I thought that Jesus was referring to Satan as the one whom we should fear. However, I no longer believe that to be the case.
Jesus is referring to God the Father. Only he has the power to cast us into Gehenna. Only he has the power to release us from our sentence. Only God knows what we speak in secret. He alone knows what we have said and done behind closed doors. Only God knows the hairs on our head, or in my case the lack thereof!
What does it mean to fear God? When I was younger I understood it to mean cowering, waiting for the hammer to fall. It meant walking around on eggshells just waiting to be smote for something I did wrong.
As I've grown and experienced more of life, I've come to a different understanding. I would liken it to my relationship to my wife. I could easily say, "fear of my wife is the beginning of wisdom." By this I don't mean that I'm peeking around every corner waiting for a frying pan. Rather, it is a fear of offending her, a fear of hurting her, a fear of damaging my relationship with her.
Having a holy fear of the Lord is very similar. As we progress in the spiritual life, as we fall more deeply in love with the Lord, this fear of damaging the relationship becomes clearer and more important.
When I first came back to the Faith I would often avoid sin out of fear of punishment and hell. I didn't want to die with that sin on my soul so I'd run to Confession. It wasn't a heart thing but a fear thing. Now, I avoid sin (not perfectly, sadly) out of fear of damaging my relationship with God. It's not so much hell that I fear but moreover I fear letting God down, disappointing Him with my actions, thoughts, and omissions.
So let us pray today that our fear of the Lord will continue to mature. Let us ask for the grace to not just avoid sin out of fear of punishment but rather out of fear of damaging a beautiful relationship. If you think you've already damaged that relationship, take heart, God is a patient lover and invites you and me back over and over until the thought of hurting him causes us to cry out with the saints, "death rather than sin."
Just a reminder, our Anniversary Sale for Real Life Rosary will continue until Sunday October 16th. Use code 14YRS to get 25% off of your order. Learn more here.
Also, we are still in the midst of our Rosar-A-Day Giveaway where we giveaway one of our handcrafted rosaries each day during the month of October. Learn more here.