Learning profound reverence

I like informality. I love working from my home office in flip-flops and bermudas. Ceremony is not my bailiwick. Most people today are non-traditional as well. The laid-back approach has won the day in our time.

That kind of approach, however, does not work well with God, not even having gained the right to call him Father.

And if you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each one’s work, live out the time of your temporary residence here in reverence, 1 Peter 1.17.

Peter’s word for reverence (Greek: phobos) is the normal term for fear. We are careful to hedge the verse with comments about what kind of fear this is, and what kind it isn’t. These are good comments. But does this hedging dull the sharpness of the deep reverence, the profound awe, and, yes, the shaking fear that ought to overcome us when we approach the presence of the Almighty?

Some people pray to God as “Daddy,” alleging that Jesus’ use of abba permits it. I’ll stick with “Our Father in Heaven,” thanks very much. Other phrases like “the Man upstairs” don’t even deserve comment.

I’m not for artificial respect, mind you. Thees and thous are no more reverent in prayer to speak to him who spoke in common language to man.

Real, profound reverence does what Peter says, it reflects how we “live out the time of our temporary residence here” on earth. It means willing submission not only to the Lord, but to one another, among his people, Ephesians 5.21.

In our city, we have tons of fixed traffic cameras that catch speeders. It’s amusing to see many drivers who slow to 35 kph when the limit is 50. They don’t trust the cameras — they don’t trust the government. But other cultures do similar things. When drivers see a police car, they slow down automatically, even if they’re driving under the speed limit.

Peter gives us a taste of that with God, because he is “the one who impartially judges according to each one’s work.” We live 24/7 under his eye. He’s not the vindictive Deity just waiting for us to goof up so he can zap us. But our eternal destiny does depend upon his judgment. So he deserves special consideration.

Peter is reflecting something he heard the Lord Jesus say.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10.28.

So Peter’s warning does not issue from a fearful personality, but from a basic spiritual truth that comes from heaven for our good.

We need this warning, because the flippant spirit refuses to take God seriously. That’s a mistake with eternal consequences.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

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