Mothers of a generation or so ago called it “the fear of God.” Those mothers wanted to ensure you had it in you, and hopefully in spades, so that you’d hit the brakes, reconsider, and turn around, should something wicked this way come (a.k.a. temptation). They’d say, “Would you do this (or say that) if you knew Jesus were right there beside you? Because He is, you know. He is.”
The author Brennan Manning referred to this as “the present risenness of Christ.” Manning’s emphasis was similar in kind to those mothers, but minus the fear factor. The ragamuffin writer prayed you and I would be constantly aware of and in awe of Christ’s living presence with us, and that it might embolden us to do the next thing in love, whatever that may be. Manning might say, “Wouldn’t you do that if you knew Jesus were right there with you? Because He is, you know. He is.”
Of course, the common ground between mothers and Manning is that even though Christ’s body is not here, His Spirit is. He is, you know. And as such, this has implications for our lives. The apostle Paul tried to communicate the same thing to the believers in Corinth concerning their trouble-ridden church, as well as some much needed discipline: “Even though I am absent in the body, I am present in spirit” (1 Corinthians 5:3).
And leave it to the apostle Paul to embody the best of both the mothers and Manning. It’s as if he were saying to the Corinthians, “I may not be there in the flesh, but I’m still there. I love you, but there’s something going on that’s not right. And since I love you, let’s do the right thing in response to it.” It takes both of those aspects for anything even remotely related to true church discipline, as Paul envisioned it, to work.
Unfortunately, we too often see it played out one-sided. To err on one side is to slide toward “an angry God,” who is just waiting in the wings for us to mess up. And to err on the other side is to ease into the arms of “a permissive God,” who wants us to be all we can be, which God truly does, but not at the expense of His holiness. Call it what you will—tough and tender, truth and grace—but that Christlike combination is absolutely necessary if our desire is to not grow weary, to not lose heart in doing good.
And is such discipline and goodness achievable in this life? A chorus of witnesses, including our mothers and Manning and Paul, would say, “Yes.” Because God is right here with us. He is, you know. He is.
Written by John Blase