Friday, May 18, 2007

Fear of Man Follow-up

Something I did not address in my post on fear in the New Testament was what godly fear looks like. So what does godly fear consist of?

First, since all authority is from God, he requires us to submit to those he has placed over us as if it were obeying him directly. As Archie said in his comment under my first post:
When a husband or civil leader is exercising his authority under the authority of the Lord, we are to fear him as this authority is of the Lord.
Therefore, we should be afraid of disobeying our leaders because we know that to do so is ultimately disobedience to the Lord. Even so, we always keep in mind that we are ultimately obeying God and therefore we render our obedience in such a way that we do not pretend that those in authority over us are the ultimate authority.

Thus, Paul says:
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,
Ephesians 6:5-7 ESV (modified)
We need to understand that God commands us to obey those in authority over us and that when we disobey; we will be disciplined (punished) by God. It seems to me that this discipline takes many forms. When an employee is constantly disobeying his employer, the discipline may be as simple as being fired. When a child disobeys his parents, the discipline may be a spanking.

When a church member is obstinate and will not obey the elders, the discipline may consist of being excommunicated. I have also seen cases where those who continue to profess Christ and yet are obstinate, even flaunting their disregard for the disciple of the elders, have led to severe sickness and even in a few cases to death. In these cases, it’s not always as clear as it was in Peter’s day when he dealt with Ananias and Sapphira, but in the few cases I’ve seen, I believe the connection is undeniable.

Therefore, we should be rightly afraid of stepping out of the boundaries we’ve been given by those whom God has given to us to rule over us. God is not unconcerned about these things; even his own son submitted himself in everything to his parents when he was young. Also, when he was before Pilate and Pilate threatened Jesus with his awesome authority (that is, his authority over life and death), Jesus acknowledged that that authority was not ultimately from Pilate or even from Caesar, but was given to Pilate through Caesar by God. And Jesus was obedient even to the point of submitting himself to the govenmental authorities of this world, even to the point of death on the cross. So, if the Son of God, who had authority over all things, submitted himself to the structures that his Father had designed, who are we to rebel?

A side note on wives obeying their husbands. Here is a very interesting problem in this whole discussion. What happens when a woman refuses to obey her husband? What recourse does a husband have to remedy the situation? He can not (should not!) excommunicate her (divorce). He can not (must not!) spank, hit, abuse in anyway, her. So what is he to do? Here we have one of the most glorious pictures of the relationship between Christ and his church shown forth most clearly between husbands and wives.

A man who has a disobedient wife must learn to be very creative and loving in bringing his wife to a place of proper obedience. I haven’t read the Taming of the Shrew since I was in middle school, so I can’t recall what happened in the story, but if I had written a book with such a title, I would have make it go something like this.

A man with an obstinate wife should bend over backwards to create a loving environment where his wife would feel safe to obey. That is, he should not speak harshly to his wife when attempting to bring her in line with the direction he is attempting to take his family. He must realize that the husband/wife relationship is such that, as Christ does with his church, he must woe her at every step.

There must be genuine affection in every word. The words must be direct at times; explaining from the scriptures why it is important for her to allow him to lead. Ultimately this is an issue of being filled with the Holy Spirit, both on the husband’s part and on the wife’s part, so there should be a tremendous amount of prayer mixed in. If there were ever a time for a man to ask for wisdom from above, this would be it. I really can’t think of a more pressing circumstance for the need for God’s help; I mean prayer for wisdom on the husband’s part, and a softening of heart on the wife’s part.

In extreme cases, a husband may need to bring his wife before the elders and ask them to intervene. This is never comfortable and everyone wishes to avoid it, but it is a gospel issue and it must be dealt with seriously. If a wife will not obey her husband, even after years of the most tender and loving urgings of the man, the woman may need to be disciplined publicly (even to the point of excommunication from the church, while not excommunicated from her husband), until she repents and obeys the gospel. This is no different than it would be in any other area where someone who professed Christ lived in outright rebellion to his laws.

So, in godly fear we acknowledge that obedience is a gospel issue, and therefore we are rightly afraid of the discipline that will follow if we were to become insubordinate.

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