Well, now they were both crying. I had the younger brother in my lap—he was curled up in a ball, sobbing into my shirt—and, clinging to my arm, the older brother implored me with tears not to send for his father. I had been trying to teach them the passage in Corinthians about how love was super important. While I was doing this the bigger brother sat on his sibling, squishing him into the wall. Such is life.
It struck me, witnessing the change as it came over the older brother. He had been strutting like a bird, refusing to apologize. So, I told one of the other children to go get the dad. Instantly, the older brother fell at my side weeping, begging me not to tell on him.
Some people may look at this apology as shallow, self-interested, insincere. On a level, it was. But even so, once that threat was there, the two brothers could reconcile. On the same level, when people try to strip Christianity of punishment, when it becomes what C. S. Lewis referred to as Christianity and water, they take away an equalizing element that fosters repentance.
What sort of repentance is that, you might ask. What does it say of Christianity that fear, selfish fear, is the thing first prompting a sinner to bend his knee? It says that Christianity understands our pitiable hearts. The church isn’t some clubhouse for saints, it is more a halfway house for parolees.
Every day I see the strutting of people praising their own virtue. “The world doesn’t need religion,” they say. “Look at me, I’m basically good,” they boast, sitting atop their brother. It is almost a fear of fear. An unwillingness to face the possible bad news is one of the greatest obstacles to hearing the gospels. One cannot ask for forgiveness without admitting the need of it. So is our vile state.
Once the older brother tasted fear, he put away his prideful looks. As his father finally came into the room, he asked his brother for forgiveness. And later that day, I watched them wrestle and play, tackling one another into the summer grass.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…
Listen to my beautiful voice: