Jesus said, But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Luke 12:5
What? Sounds like a horrible contradiction to Jesus' emphasis on love in Luke 12: 6-7, does it not?
And what about 1 John 4:18? There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
And 1 John repeatedly claims, God is love. Yet is God also fear? And doesn't all of this sound like so much double-talk?
Should we teach our children to react to God like many religious children of the past and the present, who grovel in fear and anxiety so very afraid they might not be of the few predestined to salvation or that God loves to cast millions of them into Hell?
As a young adult trying to understand the Bible, even after college, I tended to see verses propositionally and logically--the fading shadow of my fundamentalist upbringing. So I was baffled and had no answer for skeptics. Whenever Scripture made extreme statements, especially ones which seemed contradictory, I got confused and lost my way.
Check out Luke 14: 26 If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Now there's a winner. Probably won't gets points from Focus on the Family. And it's an isolated verse atheists love to heave at people of faith, like a biblical Molotov cocktail.
So now we have Jesus demanding we fear God, fear Hell and then Jesus also orders us to hate our family!
I don't claim there are any easy answers to such difficult verses--and there are many pages of them in the Bible. However, I do think we grow when we sincerely struggle spiritually.
What I don't want to do is to twist the verses into easy answers. It used to frustrate me to no end when reading commentators and they would try and get around (or eliminate) difficult minefields like this. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the famous German theologian hanged by the Nazis) gave a brilliant satire on this habit of humans in his book, The Cost of Discipleship. He made fun of those who turn Scripture into the opposite of its plain meaning:
Where Jesus says to give up all you have to become his disciple, Bonhoeffer has the modern Christian say, what Jesus really means is to keep all you have and get more.
I have learned much over the years about what Jesus means in Luke 12, but before I share my understanding this time, I thought, first, I would throw out the spiritual grenade;-) to you other bloggers and see what your take is on these vitally important verses.
In the Light of God,