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Friday, October 14, 2016

The Fear of God

I was thinking about this the other day. A repeated concern in the Bible is "the fear of God". Now, some will try to tell you that's "reverential awe". That's fine if you haven't lost sight of the actual definition of "awe" which includes a sense of "dread". Paul says that natural man has no fear of God (Rom 3:18), and he doesn't list that as a positive trait. Besides, it would be foolish to fail to fear God beyond mere "reverential aww" (as most people seem to see it). In every biblical encounter between God and Man the response is universal -- terror. Isaiah considered himself "undone" (Isa 6:5). Peter begged Jesus to "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." (Luke 5:10) Every time it is genuine fear. And if God is truly "Holy, Holy, Holy" (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8), then being not holy in His presence ought to stir some fear just as a wise worker on the freeway center divider ought to fear oncoming traffic enough to stay out of its way.

No, fear isn't necessarily bad. Fear -- wise fear -- keeps us from getting too close to the edge of a cliff. It keeps us from doing dangerous things with dreadful consequences. If it doesn't paralyze, it can serve as a good motivator in the right direction -- away from danger. If the fear is the response to perceived danger and that danger is real, then fear is a good thing.

This is why I do fear God. In fact, I have such a fear that I cannot grasp those who do not. I cannot imagine standing in God's face and saying, "Look, I know you said that you find the act of a man lying with a man as with a woman abominable (Lev 18:22), but I think it's just fine and you don't have anything to say about it." Because I fear God. Mind you, I admittedly lose sight of that fear at times. I'm not perfect -- nothing near. But I can't picture shaking my fist in the face of God saying, "I know You hate the shedding of innocent blood (Prov 6:16-17), but I'm going to call it 'a woman's right to choose' and defend it as a good thing and You just have to keep quiet about it!" To call "good" what God calls evil and to call "love" what God considers sin and to embrace warmly that which God rejects are the kinds of things my fear pushes me to avoid.

Of course, when we're talking about people who have no fear of God, this kind of thing is to be expected. I understand that, foolish as it is. They're hostile to God. It's what they do. But when someone who claims to love God -- to follow His Son -- will with open eyes and firm resolve also defy Him to His face, clearly there is no fear of God there. I don't have that kind of "courage". To me, discretion is the better part of valor.


Danny Wright said...

The Christians who don't fear God would also argue that there's no need to fear him. "God is love", they'd say, and "perfect love casts out fear. Don't you read your Bible you homophobic, anti-choice, bigot?" In fact, they'd put your position under the heading of evil, and unloving, even anti-Christ to suggest that anyone should fear God. They'd say, "No wonder people are turning from God with the picture you're painting of him. People need a Jesus, like the buddy Jesus. If they could have a Jesus like that, why they'd come flocking to the churches. But instead, you chase them away with your fear talk."

Stan said...

I am truly baffled by the "Jesus casts out all fear" folks by which they appear to mean, "I can shake my fist in the face of God and He won't do a thing because Jesus is my buddy."

Jean Aschman said...

I hope you r being sarcastic!!

Stan said...

Hi, Jean. Where do you hope to find sarcasm? I am not sarcastic when I say I fear the God. I am honest. More than that, Christians are commanded to fear God (e.g., 1 Peter 2:17). Even God's people -- like the disciples and prophets -- had a healthy fear of God. The article was not sarcastic.

Nor is there sarcasm in the fact that many well-meaning Christians argue that it is wrong to fear God because God is love and perfect love casts out fear. They argue that fear is not a motivator to bring people to Christ. That wasn't sarcastic.

So there may be some passing sarcasm in there, but I don't see it at a glance. Where?