These are challenging and scary times. We grieve the devastation of Ukraine—so many lives shattered by death and displacement—and we worry about escalation. We’re shocked by unfettered violence: the premeditated, racist mass shooting in Buffalo, a church shooting in Laguna Woods, CA, and multiple mass shootings throughout our nation this past weekend. Will hate consume us all? Inflation puts financial strain on day to day expenses with fears of recession causing long term concern. People rage in response to the leaked draft of an upcoming Supreme Court decision, trying to intimidate specific justices in hopes of changing their minds.
Let’s all stand boldly against fear. But let’s also reconsider a fear that should be embraced—one that puts other fears in their place. Live under the fear of the LORD. No, I don’t mean living in terror before a cold, despotic God looking for an excuse to whack anyone who steps out of line. I mean living in right relationship with the God of love and justice and living rightly with our neighbors. The way for doing what is right, just and fair (actions in which we all flourish) begins with “the fear of the LORD…” (Proverbs 1:7).
Israel’s King Solomon understood that the fear of the LORD derives from God’s covenant of faithful, enduring love for His people. God made the first move, delivering Israel out from Egyptian slavery, and giving them a basic rule of life that laid out how to live in right relationship with God Himself (No other gods, No idols, No misusing my name, Keep Sabbath); with family (Honor parents); with the community (No murder, No adultery, No stealing, No false witness); and with oneself (No coveting) (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). These 10 Words or Commandments were given not to constrain, but to liberate, giving us boundaries within which God’s blessing would flow. That’s why the Hebrews worshipped by singing, “The eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love (Psalms 33:18). Solomon reminded them that, “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life turning a person from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27).
Tragically, the fear of the LORD has been resisted from day 1. In the beginning, before the commandments were given, humanity lived in perfect harmony with God and one another. Deceived by Satan, Eve, with Adam alongside, chose to eat the forbidden fruit in an act of defiance and determination to change the status quo. Why does God have the prerogative to make the rules? Why should He get to say what is right and wrong? Why can’t we live on our terms instead of His? Refusing to submit to God as Creator and Master, they opened the door to shame, blame, violence and death. When we try and push God aside, refusing to fear Him, we begin to destroy others as we destroy ourselves.
Who can save us from ourselves and from our fears? In an amazing turn of events, God stepped in. Jesus Christ, God the Son, humbled Himself by taking on the form of a man and the role of a servant to offer up His life to grant forgiveness and a new orientation on life for those who trust Him (Philippians 2:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20). Overwhelmed by God’s great love we have the capacity and compulsion to love God and others with the same selfless mindset of Jesus. We serve God because we want to, not just because we ought to. His way is best. We become agents of grace and truth, bringing light into darkness, and Good News to those in pain and despair. This is how God created us to live. This love changes people and situations. This love calms fears. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).