Monday, November 06, 2006
the fear of God
“No one in my master’s house is more important than I am.” –Joe (Genesis 39:9a Contemporary English Version)
In a brief section about temptation in the story of Joseph, I mentioned megachurch pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard. Last Friday Haggard was accused by a male prostitute of paying for sex over a three-year span as well as buying crystal meth. As you can imagine, it rocked the church world and became an international news story. In telling the story of Joe I said:
“How about this in dealing with temptation in a healthy way?—Remember who you are. In rebuffing Potiphar’s wife, Joe said frankly: “No one in my master’s house is more important than I am.” Now think about this with your own life: you are so important to what God wants to do through you. This is no longer just about you. Your life ripples out to so many people. My heart breaks for Ted Haggard, the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado who has been all over the news lately. However this all shakes out in the end, perhaps he somehow forgot who he was. Most of us will not have that much spiritual influence in our lives, but I can guarantee there’s someone who’s watching you to see if your Christianity is real or not.”
By “real” I meant: is it integrous? Am I a whole person or living a double or fractured life? And the real question seems to be: what will keep me honest with myself?
In church-world, we say everything from accountability partners to small groups to professional therapists to whatever. But in the end, we will only be as real as we want to be. Accountability only works for those who want to be accountable. Let’s not kid ourselves.
It’s funny…I was thinking about the new song “Fear of the Lord” our worship leader Charlie Hines introduced and wondering if it works in a user-friendly “come-as-you-are” church. Part of the lyric is: “I want to love the things You love, I want to hate the things you hate…Teach me the fear of the Lord…”. I wondered if for the average irreligious person, that’s a little jarring—"I didn’t think God hated; I thought God was love.” And for some folks who have escaped from legalistic, “God-is-pissed-off-at-me” cultures, this feels like a reinforcement of everything they disliked about religion. At the same time, worship is more than just singing love songs, there is a pastoring element that is happening simultaneously, songs are "teaching moments" as well. And there are serious things that God does hate, for instance: hypocrisy.
Maybe if we realized how important we are, it would not have the effect of entitlement as in “I’m really important so I should be treated importantly”, but rather the fear of God, as in “I’m really important to God…He gave His life for me, so I want to honor Him with my thoughts and actions.” That means getting honest with myself when I’m struggling with something that jeopardizes my integrity…and getting any and all the help I need as quickly as possible, whether that’s professional, a trusted friend or whomever. But honestly, no one can make me do that but me. The best we can do is to make sure that we are creating communities where transparency is modeled and healing is encouraged as a process. Communities of wounded healers.
But it still makes me wonder: what if we all thought “I’m so important I can’t afford to mess around with a double life.”