Spiritual Insight: The Fear of God
“The first step towards excellence is the fear of God, the last is loving desire for Him.”
We are called to Holy Communion with the words “with the fear of God, faith and love”. Fear of God is the first step towards excellence or perfection. Are we to be afraid of God? Well yes and know. It is understandable that we are afraid of something or someone more powerful than us. The Greek word for fear is “φόβος” (fovos). In the classic sense it means something more nuanced than simply fear. The word awe comes to mind. . It is the idea that you know who God is and who we are, limited and fragile. At the Transfiguration of our Lord on Mt Tabor “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light”. The apostles James, John and Peter are overwhelmed at this Divine Revelation they literally pass out—this is the of fear/awe of God. If we have this understanding of the “awe of God” we begin our movement towards Him.
Loving desire (eros) for God is what we are called to reach. To love God is the deepest relationship that we can have with Him. It is established on trust and faith and is total. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” As St. John writes in his First Epistle:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
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