Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fear is a good thing - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"In fine, the system He pursues to inspire fear is the source of salvation. And it is the prerogative of goodness to save: 'The mercy of the Lord is on all flesh, while He reproves, corrects, and teaches as a shepherd His flock. He pities those who receive His instruction, and those who eagerly seek union with Him.'... For it is indeed noble not to sin; but it is good also for the sinner to repent; just as it is best to be always in good health, but well to recover from disease. So He commands by Solomon: 'Strike thou thy son with the rod, that thou mayest deliver his soul from death.' And again: 'Abstain not from chastising thy son, but correct him with the rod; for he will not die.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
The scriptures teach us that, in many ways, we are not to fear. "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again." (Romans 8:15) "and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) However, there are times when fear can be salutary in our lives. Fear should not be judged by its being fear in and of itself but rather by what harm or benefit it brings to our lives. Fear that would cause us to shrink back from God and from following His is fear to be resisted. However, fear that causes us to flee our sinful ways and embrace the way of God is useful and beneficial in our lives.
"For reproof and rebuke, as also the original term implies, are the stripes of the soul, chastizing sins, preventing death, and leading to self-control those carried away to licentiousness. Thus also Plato, knowing reproof to be the greatest power for reformation, and the most sovereign purification, in accordance with what has been said, observes, 'that he who is in the highest degree impure is uninstructed and base, by reason of his being unreproved in those respects in which he who is destined to be truly happy ought to be purest and best.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Reproof and rebuke, though they punish our soul, both serve to instruct us in a way that is destined to make us truly happy; the Lord using what is unpleasant in the present to ensure pleasures in the future. The one who is base, the one who is unholy, and the one who is useless to mankind is the one who has never been instructed by ways both unpleasant and painful. "You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol." (Proverbs 23:14)
"For if rulers are not a terror to a good work, how shall God, who is by nature good, be a terror to him who sins not? 'If thou doest evil, be afraid,' says the apostle... Thus also people in health do not require a physician, do not require him as long as they are strong; but those who are ill need his skill. Thus also we who in our lives are ill of shameful lusts and reprehensible excesses, and other inflammatory effects of the passions, need the Saviour. And He administers not only mild, but also stringent medicines. The bitter roots of fear then arrest the eating sores of our sins. Wherefore also fear is salutary, if bitter. Sick, we truly stand in need of the Saviour; having wandered, of one to guide us; blind, of one to lead us to the light; thirsty, 'of the fountain of life, of which whosoever partakes, shall no longer thirst;' dead, we need life; sheep, we need a shepherd; we who are children need a tutor, while universal humanity stands in need of Jesus; so that we may not continue intractable and sinners to the end, and thus fall into condemnation, but may be separated from the chaff, and stored up in the paternal garner." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Its not that God wants us to live in fear but there are times when fear is a salutatory medicine that restores us from the path of death to the path of life. Those who have been perfected by the love of God need never to fear again. However, those of us who still are still being perfected, and are still in need of a healer and savior, may need the "bitter roots of fear" to arrest us from our unfruitful and deadly way of living. In these cases, it is the Father's love to even use fear in our lives to reprove and restore us to the way of life.
"Feed us, the children, as sheep. Yea, Master, fill us with righteousness, Thine own pasture; yea, O Instructor, feed us on Thy holy mountain the Church, which towers aloft, which is above the clouds, which touches heaven. 'And I will be,' He says, 'their Shepherd,' and will be near them, as the garment to their skin. He wishes to save my flesh by enveloping it in the robe of immortality, and He hath anointed my body...For we who are passing over to immortality shall not fall into corruption, for He shall sustain us. For so He has said, and so He has willed. Such is our Instructor, righteously good... Generous, therefore, is He who gives for us the greatest of all gifts, His own life; and beneficent exceedingly, and loving to men, in that, when He might have been Lord, He wished to be a brother man; and so good was He that He died for us. (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
So should be the cry of our heart that God would employ such methods, and more so, to ensure our participation in His grand and glorious promises. For God has not promised us some earthly reward, but the reward of eternal life with Him; immortality like God and with God. Harsh and stringent discipline is never pleasant but it is a sign of His great love for us and the greatness of His promises towards us. Moreover, let us never forget His great love which He has already shown us in not only becoming a man that He might become our Savior, but also that He might become our brother. We often think of God as our Father, but He is also our elder brother. Should we not, with grateful hearts, gladly accept His instruction in our lives regardless if it is mild or harsh knowing that in both His love shines forth?

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment