I am enjoying reading through Shane Hipps book ‘Selling Water By The River’ (2012, Jericho Books) . It was recommended to me Ray Coster the PCANZ moderator. It is a book which wrestles with how organised religion can get in the way of us actually finding the source of life giving water that Jesus Christ is. AS You will have guessed from the title the metaphor he uses is that we can be guilty of trying to sell bottled water next on the banks of that never ending stream of Christ’s love and presence. While I don’t agree with all his critique of church I read with the posture of openness that maybe I need to open my ears and eyes a bit more to what the book has to say to me…
the chapter I read today was on fear and love and I appreciated Hipps reflections. which make sense of Jesus summing up the laws of the Old testament with the great commandment ‘to love the Lord your God with all You heart and all your mind and all your strength”… and “love your neighbour as yourself.”
“In the Old Testament passages, you’ll notice an important progression in the way fear operates. They say “fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” fear seems to serve as a catalyst or starting point. Wisdom may begin with fear, but it odes not end there.
The first stage of faith development often begins with fear, but it heads somewhere else-towards love.
as we mature, we learn that fear moves from being something that protects us to something that imprisons us
(Hipps uses the illustration of a toddler being afraid of a stove because hey might get burned becoming an adult who while being conscious of the warmth of the hot plate finds pleasure fulfilment and sustenance in learning to use the stove.)
“It moves from something that helps to something that hurts.
fear plays an important role in our development , but it also may choke our growth if we get stuck there.
this process of becoming opened by love can be unnerving, and it is not for the faint heart… Love opens us more and more to a freedom that moves us beyond self-justification, self protection, and self preservation. Anytime boundaries are dropped or even changed, it can feel threatening, but it is essential if we are to grow.”
I have to admit I’m not a great lover of Jazz music but Hipps uses it to illustrate the point he is making. That a Jazz musician spends years learning the rules of music, to that eventually he finds the freedom to improvise and play with great abandonment and freedom, knowing the rules and the rhythms and patterns. This only happens however after years of practise and study.
“this is what happens i the life of faith as well. Initially, fear may motivate us to follow rules for fear of God. But in the end we must release our fears and be moved by Love.”
When Hipps uses a capital L for love he is expressing the reality of the fact that ” God’s very character is love as john says “God is Love.”
“if we are to access the Living water Jesus promised, ultimately Love must become the only thing that govern behaviour, not fear…. love does not do away with boundaries; instead , it makes use of them in ways that serve the purpose of Love.”
Hipps goes on to explore what Love does in our lives and the way it brings change and often calls us to step out of our own self protection… He points to Jesus as the ultimate love unfettered by fear.
“Look what happened when Jesus followed the call of Love, Love demanded that he break the rigid rules of religion and he suffered for it. he ended up on a cross. And yet even there his heart was fearless, offering mercy to the very people who were killing him. Jesus shed his fear in the garden, a and then he was governed by Love alone. Such love has no knowledge of fear.
“In these moments of dramatic calling in life, it may seem like this love is destroying us. However that is only an illusion. We experience it in this way because we have become so used to the bars of the prison that once kept us safe. But when we live according to love we quickly learn that it is the prison that is being destroyed, not us. In reality we are being liberated by love.”
This Love is a powerful force even more powerful than we often imagine it.”
“Love and fear cannot occupy the same space.” Hipps says after taking of the relationship between light and darkness and the passage in 1 John 4:18 which says “there is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out all fear.” he continues
“Moreover love and fear are not equal and opposing forces. Fear is always at the mercy of Love. One way of seeing it is that fear is actually the absence of love, not the opposite. the lesson here is an important one. Love has no opposite. no force in the universe rivals it.
With such power, we might be wise to understand that ridding ourselves of fear is as simple as letting love in. Just as darkness automatically vanishes in the presence of Light, so too fear disappears in the radiance of Love.
our life of faith may begin with fear, we may learn from it initially. But vibrant, growing faith will be marked by an ever expanding love, and the corresponding dissolution of fear.”
I always remember the way the Rev Bill temple greeted people in a service of worship… “beloved” and have treasured that wonderful title. I also have fervent friends who say what we need is more fear of the Lord, and I’ve always wondered what that meant and had an uneasiness about it… my reply might now simply be “for the Love of God… no.”
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