It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31
Even as a young child, I was aware that my parents could assume two very different postures towards me, depending on the situation. They were loving and supportive, which I liked. When I disobeyed, sneaking off to the neighbors though (while I was supposed to be going to bed), I saw a different side. Then, I discovered they could be disciplinarians, which I didn’t like quite as much. It seemed they had two faces, one which I preferred and one which I preferred to avoid. Looking back, this was appropriate. It was my parent’s job to be loving and kind, but it was also their job to discipline me when I needed it. If they’d have been all one face or the other, they wouldn’t have been very good parents. Neither all kindness, nor all discipline, makes for a loving parent. True love in parenting requires both kindness and discipline.
This parent metaphor helps me understand God the father. In my addiction, I much preferred a warm, fuzzy version of God. I liked to think of him as all grace and mercy. When I failed, I only wanted to be told that I was loved, that I was forgiven, and that everything was going to be OK. What I needed, and what I eventually got, was painful consequences. As long as I could get away with my toxic behavior, and as long as I thought God forgave me, shielding me from judgment, then I wasn’t going to change. For me to find recovery, I needed to see God’s stern face of discipline. I needed to know that I couldn’t flaunt God’s mercy forever. When I persisted in my self-destructive behavior, I needed to experience some painful discipline.
This is the tone of today’s passage. In it, the author of Hebrews had cautioned his readers a couple of times already (Hebrews 6:6 and 10:26-27), building to this warning – It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. God is kind, but he is also stern. God is grace and mercy, but he is also truth and discipline.
We prefer to see God as a warm, fuzzy father, so we dwell on that version of him. You’ll never see today’s verse printed on some hallmark card or coffee mug. It is however, necessary that we understand this side of God. When we know the truth, but mock God’s grace by doing whatever we want, we should be afraid. God is full of grace and mercy, but like any good parent, he is also full of truth and discipline.