If you’re not familiar with Shane Claiborne, now is the time to go ahead and take note. Shane is well-known for his work with the Red-Letter Christians, Huffpost, and various other media outlets. He travels the globe teaching on social justice and what life is meant to look like for a follower of Jesus. But in this book, we [at last] get to meet Shane the pastor. From the onset, each chapter of Executing Grace reads as a sermon fit for any pulpit that desires to convey the gospel message of social justice, and specifically that of its rejection of all forms of retributive violence. Every chapter contains both theological thought as well as an exegetical understanding of the Bible, combined with real-life examples of the [far too frequent] failures of the current manner in which we dole out final justice to those who offend. This book is a call to repentance for anyone still clinging to the dying notion that the man of peace would ever have anything other than forgiveness to offer those of us caught in any form of systemic violence or theological oppression.
The clarity with which Claiborne’s argument is presented is simple enough for anyone to understand, and thorough enough for those still struggling with the issue of the gospel and the death penalty. For this reader, the most potent reminder and call to repentance in the book comes in chapter 5 –
“Any time we rejoice in death, we disgrace the cross”.
Executing Grace is a continual reminder for those who claim allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth that the most powerful agent of change is forgiveness, and that forgiveness never looks like retribution.
Editor's Note: Clarion is posting Michael Hardin's 20-episode series (excerpted from What the Facebook? vol. 1) on The Satan as a weekly release, each Thursday. CLICK HERE for the full pdf or kindle document.
For most Christians, the satan is a malevolent person just like they are but without a human body. This begs the all important question: what is a person? How do you define what constitutes a person? What is personality? Before you continue this post, take a moment and write down your response to this question.
Most of us tend to think of people as ‘persons’ as agents of independent moral authority, that persons are those that can chose or have so-called ‘free-will.’ However, the concept of personality is far more complex than that. Even if we say that a person is an autonomous moral agent that has free will we then need to define free will. What is will? What makes it free? And then we would still have to define the terms we use when it comes to our definition of free will. The problem here is that we once we go down this road, we leave all knowledge gained from the human sciences behind and end up simply speculating and creating a view of ‘person’ far more indebted to our presuppositions than to what we actually know about people.
Especially since the Enlightenment (c. 1800), we have been taught that people are autonomous moral agents, that we all stand alone and that we are all responsible for our own choices. In the last one hundred years however, there has been a turn away from this way of thought to recognizing that the concept of ‘personhood’ requires redefinition. We are no longer to be conceived of as ‘free moral agents’ who make choices determined by our own individual wills. Relationality is now the watchword when it comes to understanding what it means to be ‘persons.’ Speaking of humans, we are beings-in-relationships. Our identity comes not from some isolated thing in each of us but from our relationships. So, e.g., there is no such thing as Michael Hardin. Who ‘I’ am is the confluence of all my relationships. Take away my relationships and ‘I’ do not exist. ‘I’ am my relationships.
We are not individuals. To use a term coined by Rene Girard, we are interdividuals. This has huge implications for how we understand the concept of person and will also have huge implications for how we understand, not only the satan, but also how we image the inner-trinitarian life of God as ‘three persons in unity.’ As long as we understand personhood as discrete individual entities, each with their own will, rationality and ability to choose, we will remain mired in discussions that are little more than speculative quagmires.
Scientific research in social psychology and in the human brain has demonstrated that we are in deep structural relationship with one another well beyond the conscious level. We are inter-dependent beings. Our choices do not come from within but from without inasmuch as our desires, which we perceive to arise from within ourselves, are actually experienced internally even though they externally derived. What we want to call our ‘own’ desires/wants, are in reality the non-consciously taking up of the desires of others and making them our own.
This is a huge shift. For many people it will be troublesome. However, I would rather have a definition of ‘person’ that has some grounding in reality (that which is scientifically demonstrable) than in pure speculation. So as we consider what it means for the satan to be a person it is important to remember that our worldviews will determine how we understand this and what we bring to the table in our definition of ‘personhood.’ Would you rather just speculate as to what a ‘person’ is or would you rather take advantage of all the wealth of accumulated science that has helped us to see ourselves, not as islands on the ocean, but as part of an inner connected reality? These posts will do the latter and thus by reframing our definition of person we will come to see that the satan is not a person in the older sense of an autonomous good free moral agent turned evil, but that the satan is bound up intimately with what it means to be human. This is the turning point we are at.
During the heady days of the Jesus Movement there was a pervasive conviction among the young people involved that we were part of something revolutionary. Our lives had been radically transformed by Jesus and we wanted to relive the Book of Acts. Church as usual was not an option for us. We weren’t interested in being conservative or playing it safe. We carried a strong counterculture ethos. We saw Jesus as a revolutionary and we wanted to be revolutionaries too. We shared much of the theology of conservative evangelicals, but our vibe was decidedly counterculture, with our long hair, patched blue jeans, and tie-dyed t-shirts. We preached on the streets, in the bars, and at rock concerts.
More significantly we had inherited a distrust of government and a disdain for war from the Vietnam era. We saw a Christian critique of war as being faithful to the revolutionary Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount. We had no interest in serving the political causes of either Republicans or Democrats. We saw Christianity as a revolutionary movement that was incompatible with power-hungry political parties. We wanted to change the world in the name of Jesus; we weren’t interested in who was the current resident of the White House or the composition of Congress in the name of politics.
The liturgies of the first Christians, the historic patterns of worship, inherited also from the synagogue and temple, are our best chance not to end up worshiping the dollar, or the idea of America, the angry (or the coddling) gods of human projection—even of well-meaning Christian projection—or ourselves.
When we submit to the anchors within the historic liturgies—readings from Scripture, the confession of sin, baptism, creeds, the cry and lament of "Lord have mercy," apostolic preaching and teaching, premeditated prayers for the world, the chanting or singing of psalms, the Eucharistic table set by God in the presence of our enemies—their great collective gift is connection with Jesus Christ: the true image of God, the true image of humanity, and the one by whom we can learn to love all things that exist.
And yet they are not capable of anything apart from the Spirit of God, as is often everywhere observable. It is my experience that when the liturgies are handled without humility and reverence, without passion, and without the authentic investment of the gathered worshipers as a community that seeks to love God and their neighbor in risky and costly ways, these sacred practices that are supposed to be a fruit-bearing tree of life can be or can become withered and lifeless.
These parts of worship—prayer, confession, teaching, baptism, lament, praise, Eucharistic fellowship—can LOOK very different from church to church but they cannot be absent. They are not distinctives of one church, like candles instead of spotlights, or organs instead of guitars, or "traditions of men," like vestments for clergy or name tags for members or holy water fonts, but essentials.
Their absence is a significant debilitating handicap for any group of persons striving to be the church, whether they meet in living rooms or around kitchen tables, in cathedrals of stained glass or drywall, in storefronts, or in schools, in an open field, beneath a shade tree, or underground.
And yet these practices are meaningless and a dance without music or choreography if those who practice them do not yield to the Spirit of God, do not live out self-sacrificial community, do not walk in the humility that attends these mysteries because, after all, they are boundless, gracious gifts of the divine and human Humility who called all things into existence from nothing and who keeps all things in life.
In the absence of what we might call 'those who bear crosses,' the historic liturgies are not entrances to the kingdom, as Schmemann wisely understood, but exercises in archaeology.
A sure sign that one has not embraced the historic liturgies with the humility of the God who became flesh to wash our feet and take our nails is the self-assurance and pride that you are worshipping God in spirit and in truth while all other Christian worshippers "just don't get it."
Editor's Note: Clarion will be posting Michael Hardin's 20-episode series (excerpted from What the Facebook? vol. 1) on The Satan as a weekly release, each Thursday. CLICK HERE for the full pdf or kindle document.
When it comes to the devil, we must first disabuse ourselves of the mythology that has overlain the concept. Evil is not a reality, it is an unreality. It has no being of its own. It is not real in the same sense that God is real or as theologians might say, it has no ontology. It does not exist in and of itself. The devil, or I should say, the concept of the devil has a history. Jeffrey Burton Russell has written four major books (Devil, Satan, Lucifer, and Mephistopheles) that demonstrate that the concept of the devil is one that develops over time.
The idea of an agent of evil was first introduced into the history of ideas around 800 B.C.E, in Persia by Zoroaster. Zoroaster was a reformer of religion and taught that there were two competing principles, one of light, the other darkness; one was a good god, the other a bad god. These two principles were in an eternal battle. Sometimes in human history, the good god had the upper hand, at other times the evil god seemed to be winning. Back and forth this struggle between the gods went, playing itself out in the arena of human affairs. This principle lies behind the oriental notion of yin and yang, and of karma as well. When the Jewish people were exiled in Babylon in the sixth and seventh centuries B.C.E., they encountered this way of thinking.
Judaism also needed to account for evil in the world. In the Jewish traditions prior to the exile (found primarily in Torah), evil was a purely anthropological datum, that is evil was a purely human phenomenon. The story of the serpent in Genesis 3 shows that the man, the woman and the satan are all part of a matrix focused on the problem of desire. The talking serpent in Genesis 3 is a mythical figure. Snakes don’t talk. When we look at Genesis 3 in a future post we shall see how the snake is a metonym for desire. The important thing here is that the serpent is not some fallen angel in the guise of a snake. There are no traces of the Enoch myth in Genesis 1-3.
It was during the time of the exile that the first creation narrative was produced (Genesis 1:1-2:4). Everything about this creation was good; all seven days were beautiful in God’s sight. There is no evil in this creation story, in fact the story (or myth) is in distinct contrast to the myths espoused by the Babylonians whose gods needed and used violence to beget the creation. The Creator in the first creation story created all things with a word, that is, without violence, and that is what set apart this story from that of the cultural myths of origin from the surrounding civilizations. In my book The Jesus Driven Life I even said that this first creation story is not so much about beginnings as endings; in God’s creation all things end up as “tov, tov”, very good!
In the post-Exilic era, as this Persian dualism was imported into Jewish thinking a certain type of language and literature came into being that sought to explain the problem of evil in the world which we know as apocalyptic. This way of thinking divided the world into two ages, this age and the age to come. The way to account for evil in the world was to say that this age was evil and ruled by an evil power while the age to come was ruled by God.
The second creation narrative was another attempt to tell the story of the creation but this time, rather than express a hopeful vision, the author of the second creation story beginning in Genesis 2:5, seeks to also explain why there is trouble in the world. Notice that there is no seventh day in the second creation narrative. Why is that? Because everything after that is the sixth day: Adam/Eve, Cain, Abel, Noah, Babel. The second creation account names the real problem of evil, it is not abstract. Over and over again the problem of evil is named as violence. Violence is a human issue, not a divine problem. When we are able to recognize this, when we are able to shoulder the burden of our predicament on our own shoulders and not blame it on another worldy “being”, we will have come a long way toward understanding an essential part of the satan. The satan is violence, violence is satanic and both are human.
“It is the prerogative and charm of beauty to win hearts.”
–Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
It’s an ugly time right now. Especially in the public discourse in the land in which I live. Politicized and polarized, public discourse has devolved into the polemical napalm of give-no-inch, take-no-prisoners, burn-it-all-down flaming rhetoric. Ugly “Us versus Them” ideology goosesteps across the American stage. Hysterical screams of fear-infused hatred are heard in this nation of immigrants.
Deport ’em all!
Build a wall!
Don’t tread on me!
I was in New York last week and saw the Statue of Liberty. I think she had a tear in her eye…or maybe it was just in my eye. The tired and poor, the wretched refuse, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free…are basically given the finger these days. For the sake of honesty maybe it’s time to commission a new statue.
Are we entering a dark age where the only thing we can build is a wall and where nothing is sacred but a gun? I wonder.
Yet it’s not for America that my heart is most heavy these days, but for the church. Are we just a religious version of our ugly age or can we actually be the alternative counterculture of Christ? Can we develop enough spiritual maturity to be a Christlike community of radical love and mercy? We must! If not, we will become as superfluous as a Blockbuster video rental store…and suffer the same fate.
If the church in America is to recover any relevance, it won’t be through a public emphasis on the true (though there is a place for Christian apologetics), and it won’t be through a public emphasis on the good (though there is a place for Christian ethics), but through a public emphasis on the long-neglected third prime virtue — the beautiful. What we desperately need is a renaissance of Christian aesthetics. In a post-Christian culture adverse to truth claims and suspicious of assertions to a superior morality, it is still the prerogative and charm of beauty to win hearts. If we can be so formed in Christ that we begin to live beautiful lives, we will gain a new hearing; if not, we deserve to be ignored.
Editor's Note: Clarion will be posting Michael Hardin's 20-episode series (excerpted from What the Facebook? vol. 1) on The Satan as a weekly release, each Thursday. CLICK HERE for the full pdf or kindle document.
Hollywood has a bit of a fascination with the satan. Films have depicted it as a horrid monster, as an angel with wings and horns and as a human being (Al Pacino no less). Films like Constantine or The Exorcist owe little to the canonical scriptures and more to the second Temple Jewish literature, medieval speculation and fear, Dante and the writings of the Puritans. I say this to show that while there is a lot of speculation about the satan, there is little that we can actually say for the devil is not a prominent figure in the Bible.
Other than the prologue to the book of Job, a reference in Chronicles and one in Zechariah one does not find much in the Hebrew Scriptures. Even the serpent of Genesis 3 hardly qualifies. The Henochic (= 1 Enoch) myth of the fallen watchers has to be imported somewhere between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 much like dinosaurs have to be read back into the creation narrative. The devil does just not play a major part in Israel’s story.
When we come to the New Testament, there is a definite change. Jesus casts out demons and the world seems enthralled and under the power of evil. This is all due to the influence of apocalyptic watcher myth of I Enoch. In this literature the satan goes by many names including Beelzebub, Samma’el or the ‘diabolos.’ It is at the head of a hierarchy complete with generals, lieutenants, colonels, sergeants and minions.
One of the striking elements of the Henochic (I Enoch) myth is that after the rebellion of a certain number of angelic beings, judgment is passed and they are all consigned to eternal punishment. However, they send an emissary to God pleading that a small percentage of them may remain behind to plague humanity, and worse still, God seems to acquiesce to their request. One has to ask, what kind of a God, having passed such a judgment would then turn and allow this to occur. It would be like a person who had cancer being cured but because the faith healer felt sorry for the cancer allowed some cancer cells to remain and reinvigorate the disease! Strange.
Hollywood’s depiction of the devil owes more to popular cultural experience and ancient and medieval speculation than it does to Scripture. Films often depict the satan as an almost-god; one with extraordinary powers that rival God’s powers and in some films even outdoes God’s power. The devil is a virtual equivalent of God, a most powerful being complete, not only with armies, but with personality, something the Bible never ascribes to the satan.
This dualistic approach to the satan, creating a worldview of some divine yin and yang, or equal opposites of good and evil in the universe is not that of Scripture. If in the Hebrew Bible, there is very little mention of the satan, in the New Testament, the satan is most frequently mentioned in contexts of defeat. So how is it that entire Christian traditions can make such a fuss over the devil? Entire industries have arisen and there is a lot of money to be made off of the devil. Exorcism schools, like that of Bob Larson, movies, books, websites, music and even the so-called satanic church all profit off of a myth, yet people continue to believe that there is some virtually omnipresent, omniscient being capable of making us all spin our heads and vomit pea green soup.
I am not mocking those who have had genuine encounters with evil. I will discuss these in upcoming posts. For now I simply want to debunk an unhealthy emphasis placed on the satan in certain Christian circles. Christians do not believe in the devil, they believe in Jesus, conqueror of all evil, in all of its forms, including whatever we may understand by the satanic. Christians need not fear “the satan” anymore than they fear a thunderstorm. Perfect love not only casts out the demonic, it also casts out all of our irrational fears.
Next Episode: (3) God the Creator and The satan
The story, recorded in Luke 8, of Jesus casting out a Legion of demons from a man is surely one of the most remarkable exorcism stories in history. The man had been living in the tombs, howling and bruising himself, chained and under guard for a long time. Jesus sent the demons into a herd of some 2000 pigs, which then ran headlong over a cliff to their death in the Sea of Galilee. This is the literal reading of the story.
Humans speak and write in various ways. We sometimes speak literally, but we often speak or write in a literary way that invites the hearer to seek meaning behind the words of the text. For instance, if I were building a house and I asked my helper to cut me a 2X4, 48-3/4” long, I wouldn’t expect my helper to ask, “what do you mean by that?” The request is a literal request and there is no need to seek some deeper meaning in it. This is how many people approach the Bible. They expect the Bible to only be speaking literally. I think however, that the story of the Man of the Gadarenes literally begs to be interpreted in a literary way – like how you might read literature.
This is not to say that the story should not also be understood literally; just that the story might have more to tell us if we approach it as a piece of literature, like how you might approach something written by Shakespeare.
We might begin by looking for symbols – words that held a particular meaning at the time the story was written. In this story, four words in particular are freighted with meaning – sea, cliff, pigs and stones.
Editor's Note: The following excerpts come from Terrence J. Rynne, Jesus Christ, Peacemaker: A New Theology of Peace (Mayknoll, NY: Orbis, 2014), 29–31 for promotional purposes. They reflect an Orthodox theology similar to the 'theology of consent and participation found in Brad Jersak's A More Christlike God.
Another way of saying there is no violence in God is "there is no wrath of God." The threatening, great God, Jehovah, coming on the cloud of judgment of the wicked is not found in Jesus' reading of the scriptures. The lust for punishment of the bad guys is not God's; it is a human reaction projected onto God. There is judgement, but the judgement of evil is in the evil itself playing itself out to its own demise. Humans who refuse the offer of goodness judge themselves by the measure with which they judge others. That leads to complete self-aborption and can descend into what can only be called hell. ...
"God is always in himself the kind father who meets sinners with anticipatory love; only if sinners, despite the experience of grace, cling to their own criteria of judgement do te imprison themselves," Schwager writes. Even the murder of his own son did not provoke the reaction of vengeful retribution. The risen Jesus appeared with the message of peace and forgiveness--even to those who had reject the offer the first time. Forgiveness doubled. In the events after the resurrection we clearly see the nonviolent face of God....
God's response to human obduracy is to deliver humankind to ourselves. We do make our own beds and lie in them. We do indeed make our own hells. God does not break in to punish us; we do it to ourselves. God's so-called wrath consists in granting full respect for our freedom. The possibility exists that humans could resist even redemptive and unfathomably forgiving love.
Jesus' concern was focused on the here and now, the events of history and where those events lead. He used language that is "apocalyptic," that is, taking historical and political events metaphorically to demonstrate the built-in trajectory of those events into the future. As James D. G. Dunn describes it: "Apocalyptic language has to be understood metaphorically in reference to historical and political events rather than literally in reference to the end of the world. ... Neither Jesus nor his contemporaries were expecting the end of the space-time universe."
No wrath in God. No violence. Only unfathomable love. With that understanding of the God of his forefathers, Jesus could not countenance a political order built on exclusion, separation, and hatred of the enemy--in the name of religion, in the name of their God. If there is no violence in God, that undercuts the age-old tendency of humans to label those who are outside the privilege circle as threats, as enemies, as evil--to dehumanize them and then make them objects of righteous, sacralized violence.
It is one of the most explosive issues facing our world in the early years of this 21st century. Political and religious agendas around the world are bullied and coerced, reacting to a virus-like spiritual plague of religious fundamentalism. The Islamic fundamentalist reaction to Western imperialism and decadence is said to be a counter-attack on the "great Satans" of our culture (materialism, immorality, secularism, humanism, science and technology), all of which are blamed for taking our world to hell in a hand-basket.
Though the eyes of the world are currently focused on Islamic fundamentalism, the seeds of radical religious fundamentalism are found in virtually all of the world's major religions.
Fundamentalism, whatever its outward attire might be, is convinced that society wants to wipe out its faith and practice. Fundamentalists tend to see the world as "them" and "us"—they feel trapped, with their backs against the wall, and obligated to fight for their faith under their fundamentalist flag.
Extreme Islamic beliefs and practices are, without a question, a dangerous, turbulent storm of fundamentalism that overshadows our entire western world. But while it lurks in the shadows, extreme fundamentalism in the name of Jesus also portends a clear and present spiritual danger. Fundamentalism is fostering dramatic changes, forcing us to rethink our moral priorities, whether we like it or not.
When Calls for Peace Are Dismissed
Hate-filled rhetoric and passionate appeals for bloodshed in the name of God are the manipulative interpretations of teachers who are war-mongers thirsting for blood, yearning for revenge and violence. Terrorists who torture and maim, fueled by anger and lust (James 4:1-3) hide like cowards behind the skirts of God (or Allah), desperately trying to remake divinity into their own violent image.
CLICK HERE to continue
Editor's note: This article is a follow-up to Bearers of Co-Suffering Love
Some have asked me to explain "moral grief," looking at the Holy Fathers.
The best example of Moral Grief is Christ's prayer in Gethsemane just before his betrayal. As the fathers tell us, Christ had no fear of death. He certainly knew who He is. What then, was the "chalice" that He suffered from so greatly and wished to have it removed?
He was referring to His grief over the conditions and bondage of humanity. As the great Russian father, Antony Khrapovitsky says, "Christ suffered more greatly from His moral grief for humanity than He suffered physically on the cross."
Christ expressed no outrage over mankind's sins, which He had come to bear away. Even when critiquing the self-righteous, He was sharp and stern, but without outrage. With the woman taken in adultery, we do not see any moral outraged in Christ, rather, being concerned for her healing and salvation, He demonstrates a moral grief toward her accusers who were, despite of their own moral outrage, were immoral and full of sin themselves.
Moral grief never seeks the punishment or degradation of another, but feels grief over their bondage and inner human suffering. Moral outrage wallows in the desire for punishment, and rages against the other rather than feeling a deep sense of humble grief over their condition. I hope this will explain to some degree.
St Antony Khrapovitsky once wrote:
“In the garden of Gethsemane the Lord demonstrated the ultimate degree of co-suffering with the sins of every person, when He began to be oppressed by them to such a degree that He asked the heavenly Father to deliver Him from the agony. 'And was heard because of His reverence" as the apostle says (Heb.5:7), as an angel appeared and strengthened Him.'
"... How can I benefit from the Saviour's grief over people's sins, in the way that a corrupted person's soul is filled by a friend's co-suffering love? Only if I am convinced of the certainty that I too, I personally, as an individual, was and am encompassed in the heart of Christ Who grieves over my sins. Only when I am aware that He beholds me, stretches out His supporting hand toward me and encompasses me with His co-suffering love: only then is He my Saviour, pouring new moral strength into me, He "Who teaches my hands for war" (Ps. 17:34) against evil.
"This is possible only when He is not foreign to me, not a historical example of virtue, but a part of my being or, more correctly, when I am a part of His being, a participant of the Divine nature, as Apostle Peter says (Pt.1:4).T
PATRISTIC REFERENCES: CHRIST WAS NOT GRIEVED IN GETHSEMANE ABOUT HIS OWN SUFFERING AND CRUCIFIXION:
St Hilary of Poitlers devotes several paragraphs to refuting the idea that Christ felt fear in Gethsemane. He says that Christ's words, “My soul is sorrowful unto death” cannot mean that He was sorrowful because of His own impending death. He was sorrowful unto death in that He sorrowed so greatly over fallen humanity that He came unto death over it. “So far from His sadness being caused by death, it was removed by it.”
Concerning the words, “Let this cup pass from Me,” St Hilary says,
For this prayer is immediately followed by the words, ‘and He came to His disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter; could you not watch one hour with Me?...the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh Is weak....' Is the cause of this sadness and this prayer any longer in doubt?...it is not, therefore, for Himself that He is sorrowful and prays, but for those whom He exhorts.
The saint points out that Christ had no need to fear His passion and death, but that even those who were committed to Him would so fear it that at first, on account of it, they would flee and fear to confess Him, and that Christ was sorrowful over this. The whole passage is well worth reading. (See On the Trinity, Book 10:30—40).
Both St Cyril and St Ambrose directly confirm Metropolitan Antony's interpretation of the cause and significance of Christ's agony in Gethsemane, and the “cup” which He asked to have removed from Him.
It seems to me that fear is closely associated with our default understanding of God. Indeed, we might even say that for many people, fear is the instinctive emotional response to thoughts of God. Long-established expressions like “to put the fear of God into someone” illustrate just how intimately the emotion of fear is connected with the idea of God.
And, of course, those wishing to draw on the Bible to support the notion that fear is an appropriate response to God can do so with ease. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, we are told in Proverbs 9:10. And there’s no shortage of accounts throughout the text of scripture where God or his angels appear to strike fear into people’s hearts.
So, fear is typically quite ingrained in our psyche as a response to God, and many assume that the Bible validates its appropriateness.
The writer of the first epistle of John, shortly after telling us that God is love, has this to say:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” (1 John 4:18)
And so we have a seeming paradox: on the one hand, fear of God is something appropriate and even valuable and necessary; but on the other hand, God is love, and as such, there is no place or reason for fear in him.