Once when I was younger, I remember deciding whether or not I was going to disobey the curfew my dad imposed on me. I also remember pretty distinctly that I made my decision to actually do the right thing and get back in time, not because I wanted to honor my dad, but because I was afraid of him. Getting a "whoopin" was something my generation knew about and I'm a better man today for it.
Growing up, I would sometimes get made fun of for being "sheltered." I used to feel embarrassed about it, at first. That was until I saw the trajectory of the lives of those giving me a hard time. I'm not perfect, but having a healthy fear of real punishment was good for me. It gave me boundaries. Now I'm nearly forty years old. The dad that I once feared, I now... truly love and admire. There was wisdom in my parents keeping an invested interest in my life when I was younger, then releasing me to sprout my own wings. So today, I honor them because I love them, not because I fear them.
Why did I just share all that? Because I feel there's something very similar that goes on in those who are truly seeking God in their lives. I want to quickly lay a few passages alongside each other to show how we can understand better the role that "fearing God" plays in our lives, for the better:
It Begins With "Fear"
Now sometimes we in the Christian community like to explain away the fear in this verse as merely "respect, reverence, piety." And yes, this is fully true while only being partially accurate. There's more to the equation. We cannot pass over that this fear can additionally be defined as an "awesome or terrifying thing."
This first step is important to understand: When it comes to our Heavenly Father (much like when I was younger with my earthly father), fear is all at once "respectful, reverential, pious", while at the same time being "terrifying." This type of fear actually keeps us from doing things we shouldn't be doing, away from places we shouldn't be going, and avoiding people we shouldn't be hanging out with.
Let's be absolutely clear: We're not talking about an abusive fear. A healthy fear is a healthy mechanism that sets up healthy boundaries in our lives. This is a good thing. It's a God-thing. This is similar to the reason why we avoid crossing those double yellow lines with on-coming traffic only feet apart from the direction we're heading. While this biblical fear is a sensible start, it is not the end-all, be-all of our relationship with God. There's so much more.
Love AS The Finish Line
As I grew to understand the "why" behind the consequences put on me for disobeying, something interesting started to happening. I began to find I could trust my parents' hearts, even when I disagreed with them. Especially, when I disagreed with them. This caused a shift in my reasoning for respecting their counsel and their wishes for my life. The shift moved from fear towards love.
Again, as a grown man, I no longer have no concern for getting sent to my room, or getting "the belt," or my allowance being taken away. All I have is a true revelation and appreciation for who they are in my life. I want to live an honorable life and be a godly man, husband and father. Not because I fear punishment from my mom and dad anymore, but rather because I love them and want them to see me live a life that honors their influence on me.
Once more, love proves to be the ultimate test of relationship.
If you're just only beginning in your faith, or if you're making a new fresh start with God, fear is definitely going to be helpful. We live in a generation where we don't think God ever gets mad at the sin we do. You need to know this: Yes, He does. There's passage after passage from beginning to end where He lets us know how much He hates sin in our lives. Because our "sin separates us from God." Not a good place to be. So, if biblical fear will help keep you out of sin... then use that. You need to be afraid of God if you're continuing to willfully live in any type of sin.
That being said, when you truly love someone, you don't operate from a place of "Oh no! If I do this, then I'll get in trouble!" You operate from a place of, "What can I do today to put a smile on their face?"
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Special Shout Out to: Sara Harper for submitting the topic
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