And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:41
We recently introduced a song titled “Jesus, Strong and Kind.” The title may not strike you at first, but the words “strong” and “kind” reveal two aspects of God’s character that we tend to separate.
In our day and age, we tend to focus on God’s kindness, as well as his nearness, mercy, and love. We love the idea of God’s immanence, that God is near to us. And wonderfully, this is all true. These are glorious aspects of God’s character, and we see them most clearly in the sacrificial death of Jesus for our sins.
But we tend to not delight in, or even desire, his strength as much. We may say we want a strong God, but we want him strong on our terms, in the areas we already know we need help. We want him to act only on our invitation, only for our purposes.
In the Bible, God’s strength causes people to fear him (see Jesus’ calming of the storm). God’s strength reveals that he is not totally like us. If he has authority and power over the problems we face, he has authority and power over us as well, over our thoughts, loves, time, possessions,e tc.
In addition to being near, kind, and merciful, God is transcendent, just, and wrathful. He is perfect in holiness and judgment.
In ages past, church buildings were designed and constructed to give a sense of God’s transcendent, glorious nature. The liturgy of the service was meant to give a sense of reverence, respect, and awe. While this went to some unhealthy extremes at times, today we go to unhealthy extremes on the other end.
We highlight God’s kindness and mercy, and minimize or outright reject his justice and holiness. The result is a god who is small, docile, timid, and ultimately in service to ourself, the real authority.
We come to him when we need something from him, not because he deserves the fullness of our love, worship, delight, and obedience. We take the confidence we can have before him through the blood of Jesus to mean that we can come casually, periodically, flippantly, distractedly (as seen by the popular “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirts).
What this really reveals is that we haven’t yet seen God for who he is, and need to keep peering in, keep reading and listening to his word, keep laying bear our lives before him. And when we get to the point of overwhelming fear, as the disciples did when Jesus calmed the storm, not turn away but ask, “Who is this, that even the wind and the see obey him?”
This is Jesus, strong and kind.