And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31
With movie theaters open (for now), my son and I recently saw a film in which the fate of the world hung in the balance. As time travel was involved, it was more than a little confusing. The one thing that was completely clear though, was that the good guy was obviously good, and the bad guy was obviously bad. The main character acted nobly, while the antagonist was just pure evil. That, at least, was easy to understand, and I appreciated it.
Many of us prefer this monochrome view of the world. Some of us struggle with extreme thinking more than others, but most of us find the world easier to grasp if we can simply categorize people. If someone is good or bad, he or she is easier to comprehend. We look at people and we put them in a box, based on our experience.
We do this with God as well. We read a passage or hear a sermon we like about an attribute of God and we cling to it. That’s the God I like. The addict, failing constantly, prefers the God that is all mercy and grace. Someone else, who’s lived a pretty good life and has never really done anything terribly bad, might prefer to think of God more as a stern father, rewarding obedience. Based on our own lives and experiences, we see God as comforting or fearful. He’s easier to understand if he’s just one thing.
God, of course, isn’t one dimensional or easy to understand. In today’s passage, we’re told how the early church both feared God and found comfort in him. They didn’t focus on just one attribute, but rather understood that fearful God and comforting God were two sides to the same coin.
We’d do well to understand God this way. When we see only God’s grace, we’re tempted to live however we want. When we see God only as fearful, we resent him. God is full of grace, but if we abuse that grace to justify our sin, we should be terrified of the consequences. When we repent and turn to him though, we should find ultimate comfort. It is only in fearing God that we may truly follow him. In following, we experience the joy and peace that can be found only in God.