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At the heart of reverence, or holy love, are six components: otherness, openness, submissiveness, gratefulness, childlikeness, and wholeheartedness. To rescue reverence is to understand these in turn.

What is the fundamental obstacle to knowing and loving God? Self-worship. Pride and unbelief, the two sides of the coin of Self, are at the root of every sin, and therefore at the root of fleeing from God. Stubborn independence, guiltily skulking away, and refusing to find pleasure in his beauty come from the flesh’s desire to rule. Unbelieving pride is the mother of all sins, and the root of all spiritual malfunction. 

If we are to worship God by knowing him, the absolute starting point is that we recognise he is God and we are not. Christianity broken down to its first principle is this: only one God exists, and he is not us. He is not a means to our own ends. We have been created to know and love him for who he is. If we are to love God as he is, we must deny ourselves, recognising that our lives do not revolve around ourselves, since we orbit the sun that is God, not the other way around. We must turn from trying to use God, or manipulate God, and come to him to love him as our only God. We must settle on the fact that there will be only one ultimate love in our lives, and it will be God. A failure to give God his place as God is at the root of all our problems. 

This foundational attitude of loving God we could call otherness. It understands that the Great Choice of life is to acknowledge God’s claim on us, go out of ourselves, as Augustine put it, and acknowledge God’s claim on us. Our fundamental posture is oriented away from self towards the other: the Great Other Himself.

Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth. (Psa 115:1)

Otherness is to understand that life is not about self. Life is about going outside of ourselves to God. It is about him. He is God, we are not. He is the source, we are not. He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End. This is the starting point of the fear of the Lord. 

A biblical word for otherness is humility. The beginning of all sin is pride and unbelief, while the beginning of right relationship with God is humility. Reverent love begins with understanding God’s ‘godness’ and humbling ourselves under that. 

Why should humility or otherness be so fundamental to loving God? The answer is that to be in union with God and love him appropriately, is to properly understand who God is and who we are.

The anonymous author of the thirteenth century classic Theologia Germanica wrote, 

“And therefore it is true to the very letter, that the creature, as creature, hath no worthiness in itself, and no right to anything, and no claim over any one, either over God or over the creature, and that it ought to give itself up to God and submit to him because this is just.”

Fearing God begins with this right estimation of our position before God. Otherness is really a form of acknowledgement of who God is, who we are, and what our response to him should be. We are descending from lofty pretensions down into the ground-floor reality of truth: truth about God, truth about self, truth about others. 

But otherness or humility is no burden to the worshipping heart. “It is impossible to express the great pleasure and delight which religious persons feel in the lowest prostration of their souls before God, when, having a deep sense of the divine majesty and glory, they sink, if I may so speak, to the bottom of their beings, and vanish and disappear in the presence of God, by a serious and affectionate acknowledgement of their own nothingness,”2 said Henry Scougal.

When we considered the great priority of the Christian life, we saw that ultimate love for God is based on God’s unchallenged status as the only God. Otherness, or humility gets the human into the posture for worship: acknowledging that Yahweh is God, and there is no other; there is no God besides him (Is 45:5). Humility acknowledges the ‘solitariness’ of God: that he is solely God. The humble Christian recognises that God alone deserves worship, and that his beauty alone deserves to be loved for itself.

For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. (Psalm 96:4-5)

If we are to live in God’s presence and come to know him and love him, then we must deny ourselves, “deflate” ourselves, so that we are once again truly in our correct place under God. We reject the “I AM” and “I will’ attitudes of pride. This is simply a just posture: a correct evaluation of our standing before God. 

Inevitable self! vile imitation
Of universal light, –
Within our hearts a dreadful usurpation
Of God’s exclusive right!

The opiate balms of grace may haply still thee,
Deep in my nature lying;
For I may hardly hope, alas! to kill thee,
Save by the act of dying.
 – Frederick Faber

Here we see the reason why otherness is foundational in our posture. Pride obscures our relationship with God by treating God as smaller than he actually is, and treating ourselves as greater than we actually are. Pride is a distortion of reality. God can no more work with pride than reason with a lunatic. Pride is a kind of moral madness, where we see ourselves as gods with intrinsic beauty. With pride goes unbelief, which is refusing to accept what God says about us, himself and reality. We can only love and reverence God rightly if we grant to God his true place of firstness in our lives.

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