The Bible is full of tensions and and truths that we must study and try to understand in our daily walks with the Lord. Mutual responsibility (God’s sovereignty and our accountability), the coming of the Kingdom of God (Jesus has brought salvation in part, but it will be completed in fullness when He comes the second time), and the like. But one that regularly leaves people in different camps is how we best relate to God: Is he almighty judge? King? Or father?
Scripture teaches all of these truths, and to try to pick one out as better than the other or as our primary method of relating to God is dangerous at best and detrimental to our faith at worst. If you think of Jesus as your “homeboy” as the tee-shirt suggests, you are in grave danger of disrespecting the king of the universe. Jesus will not be snowboarding with you on the New Earth, He is king and judge and will reign from His throne (Matt 19.28). But if you only think of Jesus as the eternal judge, you miss out on His tender, loving side by which we know we have been adopted as sons and we can crawl up in His lap and call Him “daddy” (Rom 8.15)
Should we fear God as the king, and as the judge?
“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
– Matt 10.28
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
– 1 John 4.18
There is a tendency in our culture to choose to elevate grace above all other attributes and gifts of God. God’s grace is indeed glorious and deserving of our praise. It is by grace alone that we have any hope for eternal salvation (Eph 2.8-9). But we must be diligent, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, not to cheapen grace. God’s grace is not an excuse for us to live however we want, we must be diligent to fight sin in our lives (Rom 6). It is by grace that we are forgiven, but we cannot crawl up in God’s lap if we have unrepented sin in our lives (Matt 5.22-24). He cannot and will not look on wickedness (Hab 1.13), and if we go on sinning after we receive salvation we prove ourselves to not be saved (Heb 10.26-27).
But yet, it is by grace alone that we are saved and we can not and will not earn favor with God by obedience. We only love because God loves us, forgives us and welcomes us into His presence, and when we understand God’s love, we are not to fear Him.
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
– 1 John 4.16-20
Consider this today, that the king of the universe who will judge all without partiality and without leniency has offered you salvation through the life, death and resurrection of His son. He will adopt you as children, but the proof that we have been adopted is our obedience. Love Him. Know Him. Call Him father, daddy even. But do not become so comfortable as to think that He will excuse you and accept you irregardless of how you act. Prove yourself to be His follower by loving and obeying Him. Everyone who encountered any heavenly glory immediately fell to the ground and covered their eyes in fear. We will have the same reaction on that day when we meet Him. But He will welcome those who have abode in Him as beloved children. Wrestle with the balance of love and fear. Do not let one win out over the other. God deserves to be revered and respected as well as loved and cherished. Seek His face today.