What does the Bible mean when it asks us “to fear the Lord?”
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When the bible encourages us to the fear the Lord, does the Bible actually want us to be afraid of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit? We are told to fear many bad things in life crime, crossing a busy avenue, hurricanes, guns, terrorists, sin, and the devil. But to live in trepidation of our loving Heavenly Father? Why would the Bible tell us to fear Him? Why are we reminded to live with ominous thoughts of a God who went to so much trouble to save us? And why would Jesus our Savior say each time He enters a room, “Peace be with you,” if we are to fear Him? Why then are the Scriptures encouraging us to fear the Lord?
God does have unbelievably vast power. His power is absolutely an amazing wonder that cannot be defined. Jesus showed God’s power many times during His short life. Remember when Jesus’ power fed the five-thousand people? Or when Jesus’ power raised a dead twelve-year-old girl and returned her to her father?
Jesus’ power forgave the woman caught in adultery and told her “to go and sin no more.” The Holy Spirit showed His power when He appeared as tongues of fire on the frightened apostles and Mary turning these timid followers into passionate preachers converting five-thousand people with just one homily.
God himself showed His power when He rolled away the heavy rock from the tomb and raised His dead Son Jesus to life. We know from faith that this same power will also raise you and me. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have divine power and many today live in fear of that awesome power.
However, God’s enormous power that moves mountains is the same tenderhearted power that loves us, forgives us our sins, pours abundant mercy on us no matter how hurtful our offense. It is the same power that loved His Son, and at the same time held back while His Son suffered and died so that we, His creatures, might live forever.
Who can wield such imposing power, but our amazing God? This powerful, almighty God who continues to love us even when we doubt and ignore Him. How often does God show us that although He is all powerful, He is humble enough to restrain His anger, continue to forgive, and give us another chance?
Is this awesome power supposed to frighten us into submission? No! God doesn’t want fear-filled people who cower! Then, what does it mean for us to have “fear of the Lord?” I believe the fear is that one day our own arrogance may strain God’s patience. Or the fear that one day we may lose God through our own recklessness and rashness. And God will simply wash His hands of us and walk away! Now we know God won’t do this, but we also remember Adam and Eve’s story and their banishment from paradise.
While we realize that we can never equal the love God has for us, we can easily be openly grateful for His generous love as we struggle to live our daily lives. In God’s “eyes” every little bit helps, because God blesses effort, not simply end results.
We see then that “fear of the Lord” makes us want to grow in love and growing in love makes us more like God. For we know that God is love. Love continuously replaces any need to fear God. St. Francis de Sales agrees when he writes:
Do everything through love, and nothing through fear!