Now this is the commandment… that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you… that you may fear the LORD your God… You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6: 1,2,5
In his 1996 book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think cognitive linguist George Lakoff argues that the main difference between “conservatives” and “liberals” has to with their understanding of morality. According to Lakoff, conservatives hold to a “Strict Father” morality and liberals to a “Nurturing Parent” morality.
Lakoff’s views seem to confirm an age old observation, namely that all religions can basically be divided into one of two broad categories: Religions of fear and religions of love. The one depicts a stern God of justice, the other a compassionate father.
The famous passage above provides us with two clear directives: We are to love God and we are to fear God. The reader is not given any choice between the two. Clearly the God of the Bible is both a God of justice and a Father of compassion.
Love and fear are the strongest emotions known to humanity. All of us are born with them, and we can never rid ourselves of them. Our only choice in the matter is who (or what) we shall love and who (or what) we shall fear. This combination of reverential awe and loving adoration is what worship is all about. Without God this remarkable inborn drive to worship becomes corrupt and misdirected. Love then becomes sensuality or a sick dependency, and fear becomes terror or anxiety.
The great challenge for the Christian is not to try and create these two forces, but to detect them and to redirect them back to their rightful object: God.