I don’t know about you, but throughout my whole life, fear and love seemed to be opposites. If my mom loved me, I wasn’t afraid of her like a woman from a horror film - why would I hide from a loving hug? Oh the terror.
But then, as I began reading the the Bible, I came across the word “fear,” but “fear” seemed like it was a good thing. God who supposedly loves me unconditionally - more than I could even comprehend - also wants me to fear Him? Now, which one is it? Fear or love?...I didn't understand both.
As I kept digging deeper, I realized “fear of the Lord” wasn’t the kind of fear I had while watching a scary movie - freaking out that someone would break into our home or pop out in the dark. “Fear of the Lord” was something I knew more about than I realized…
JoHannah Reardon’s article from Christian Bible Studies says this:
“I often hear people explain the fear of the Lord as a mere respect or reverence. But the Bible uses the word fear at least 300 times in reference to God, so we make a mistake when we downplay it. The subject becomes even more mysterious when we read something like 1 John 4:18 that says that 'perfect love expels all fear.' So how do we marry this dichotomy? How can we fear God while he expels all fear?
Scripture is full of examples of how fearing God is a positive rather than a negative thing…
So it's clear that fearing God is good because it saves us from caving into our own sinful nature. That's why hearing someone is God-fearing actually makes us trust that person more. If they fear God, they are more likely to keep their word and treat others with kindness. In fact, Romans 3, a classic chapter on sin, says that our chief sin is that we "have no fear of God at all" (Romans 3:18).
So how does fearing God, who is the definition of perfect love, take away fear?...What?
William D. Eisenhower puts it this way in his article 'Fearing God" in Christianity Today:
"Unfortunately, many of us presume that the world is the ultimate threat and that God's function is to offset it. How different this is from the biblical position that God is far scarier than the world …. When we assume that the world is the ultimate threat, we give it unwarranted power, for in truth, the world's threats are temporary. When we expect God to balance the stress of the world, we reduce him to the world's equal …. As I walk with the Lord, I discover that God poses an ominous threat to my ego, but not to me. He rescues me from my delusions, so he may reveal the truth that sets me free. He casts me down, only to lift me up again. He sits in judgment of my sin, but forgives me nevertheless. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion. [So, in order to receive God’s unconditional love, we must also fear God - fear is actually a good thing].
And, of course, the ultimate example of fear and perfect love working together is Jesus Christ. He warned us at every turn to fear God, not men—and he confirmed that in everything about his life and death. He spoke lovingly but frankly to all and didn't mince words when people needed to face their sin and repent. But he also demonstrated love beyond human understanding when he lived out his words, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13). With love like that, what is left to fear but God?”
So back to my loving mom - yes I know she loves me, and I’m not afraid of her hugs. But the thought of messing up and my mom finding out…fear. This fear doesn’t come from a place of past harm or unforgiveness - rather, my mom will forgive me and she will still love me, but we will have to talk about it, and there will be consequences. My mom loves me so much that she desires what is best for me, and if I lack wisdom and mess up, she will help me back up but love. I respect my mom and I want to honor my mom, so I strive not for perfection, but honor. I fear my mom because she loves me so much and doing wrong means consequences. But my fear is respect and honor, not terror and crippling emotion. Fear of my mom, furthermore, fear of God…is wisdom. It’s with my Fear of God that I am capable of receiving His unconditional love - fear and love go together.
Fear of God is a concept that I often have to revisit and study every so often…but, I’m wondering what it looks like to live each day with a desire to Fear God, rather than a foolish desire to hide my insecurities and put on my masks?
What does it look like to be wise?
Scripture | Psalm 34 (ESV) - Taste and See That the Lord Is Good
1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.