I’ve heard legends about the high priest, the man set apart to meet with God on behalf of the people. His life revolved entirely around on a practice of holiness. And still, one legend in particular tells us that the high priest entered the holy place, with bells on his hem and a rope tied to his ankle.
The legend says that he did this, so that were God to kill him for some untended impurity, those outside the curtain could drag his body out.
Judeo Christian historians will tell you that there is no mention of this practice anywhere within early Christian or Jewish writings and that the legend is just that, a legend.
But, regardless of the truth of the legend, the fact that a tale like this has surfaced, and remained known over the years is telling. It paints a picture of humanity’s fear of God and sense of unworthiness. Whether inherited at birth or taught over the span of our lives, we contain a sense that should we go to God unclean, we will regret it.
“It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” ~ Hebrews 10:31
This is one of those lines that has never sat right with me. But it certainly helps paint a picture of a relationship that requires ropes and bells.
It’s one that most believers understand on a personal level, not necessarily from experience but from a common fear. Most of us have a lurking sense of fear when it comes to being in front of God.
Much of it (I think) may stem from the reading of scriptures that depict how God quickly released fatal judgement upon those he deemed to be unclean. Some of it though, may be as simple as our fear to be naked in front of another. There is a great deal of trust and sometimes courage needed to be bare in the presence of even a lover.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~1 John: 4:18
Here is where things get difficult. I’ve heard this verse contextualized to explain how the “right kind” of fear is a good thing because it’s rooted in love. But the first sentence makes this a bit of a stretch.
“There is no fear in love.”
I’ll skip the bit about punishment and how the threat of hell hanging over our heads stands directly in the way of loving relationship and stick with this: That we cannot be made perfect in love so long as we remain fearful.
A God that we fear can never woo us into love. A relationship that contains any fear is not one that we’ll be able bare vulnerability with. If we’re to love Him… and if he loves us. We need not fear Him. Love is many things. But it is never afraid.