In the song, "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," Death Cab for Cutie sings about death and following a lover "into the dark." It's a song with that sees death as an unknown. There are many folks who see death and life after death that way. I'm not going to discuss that here though.
What struck me (and broke my heart) were the following lines:
In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me
"Son fear is the heart of love"
So I never went back
I never went to Catholic school, but I did grow up in a religious culture that was fear based. We were told early in life that we needed to accept Jesus as our personal Savior so we could avoid going to hell. Lurid descriptions of hell, some going beyond what Scripture says, were part and parcel of the "gospel." Movies like "Thief in the Night," and stories of holes drilled deep into the earth and the screams of the damned coming from those holes, were designed to scare people into "making a decision" for Christ. Today, churches use things like "Judgment House," and "Helloween" to do the same thing.
There was also an emphasis on "living right," which of course meant following a certain set of rules and regulations. The motives for doing right included not wanting to lose rewards in heaven, not wanting to damage our "testimony," and not wanting to be "taken home" early because of our sin. We tried to live right because of fear of the consequences if we didn't. Even those of us who rebelled tried to make sure that we asked forgiveness before we went to bed, in case we died in the middle of the night.
While there are warnings throughout Scripture about judgment, and I do believe that there will be some sort of judgment when Jesus comes again, I think the more prevalent theme throughout the Bible is love. The Israelites were told that God was leading them in his love. They were commanded to love God with their entire being, and to love their neighbors as themselves.
God presented himself to Moses as the God who is, "slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." All through the Old Testament, the people of God were reminded of his love for them and of their responsibility to love God and to love others.
In the New Testament, Jesus states that all of God's Law can be kept by loving God with our entire being and loving all others as ourselves. He said that the way others would know that we belong to him is our love for each other. In John's first letter, he writes about the importance of love. 1 John 4:18 is the verse that puts to rest any notion that "fear is the heart of love." This verse sums it up:
"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."
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