Recently, I noticed a bumper sticker on a pickup truck that got my attention. I don’t usually pay too much attention to bumper stickers, but this one made me smile and reflect a bit. The sticker read, “U.S. Marines fear no one – only God”.
Some of my interest in this statement, I realized later, took me back to my early days in the church. We were always told, “God is love”. I remember thinking at the time that this didn’t quite fit with another idea that I often heard; that we should fear God. I’ve since heard many views of this fear of God. The God of the Old Testament was certainly a fearsome image. After all, he would destroy cities; send plagues; flood the earth; and more. Yes, this was a God to inspire fear!
Well, then in the New Testament, all that supposedly changed. The images softened dramatically with the introduction of Jesus as God’s son. God was tender and full of compassion, quick to forgive, and eager to love his creation. But, wait! Now I hear that this new God sent his son to die a horrible death? Maybe we’re back to fear again. My Daddy would never do that. I’m told that fear was intended to mean to respect; to hold in awe; to revere; and even to love. Wow, even more confusion, and now I’m grown and think that I might have a chance to understand. NOT!
I appreciate the Marines and all those in our Armed Forces who go into harms way to defend our country when we’re backed into a corner. I even appreciate them when the misguided politicians send them into battle for all the wrong reasons. Surely the sentiment expressed in this bumper sticker intends to indicate a belief in a higher power. That isn’t at all a bad thing. I like knowing that our defenders consider themselves fearless; how else could they do their jobs? I do, however, wish that we could believe more fully and completely in the idea that God is love. Surely this world would be a much better place.
Whether we believe in God or not, belief in love could make many of the problems of our world disappear.
The words of Retired Episcopal Bishop John Spong speak volumes to me on this subject: “God is not a noun, that demands to be be defined. God is a verb that invites us to live, to love, and to be.”