Do We Really Need to Fear the Lord?
What does “Fear of the Lord” really mean? I didn’t think we were supposed to be afraid of God. Isn’t God all loving?
This was one of the first questions I ever remember asking at my religious education classes as a kid. We were supposed to learn the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord. (We receive this list of gifts from the Holy Spirit, as outlined and explained to us in Isaiah 11:2).
You see, fear of the Lord was a common phrase used way back when…even long before the time of Christ (which is why we see it, for instance, in Isaiah). The scriptures use that exact phrase over fifty times, and refer to it countless others.
You’re correct, though, in being confused as to why we should or would “fear” our Lord, because He IS all loving, all merciful and all giving.
The simplest way to understand it in today’s culture is to substitute the word AWE for the word “fear”.
We should constantly be in awe of the Lord.
Now, that is NOT to say that God is not all-powerful, or that God couldn’t wipe out His enemies in an “almighty instant”. He can. He has.
What it does mean, to stand in AWE of God, however, is that we recognize His glory, His might, His power, His love, His mercy and His reign over everything, over everyone, over all of creation…especially over ourselves. To stand in awe means to be so aware of His presence and His blessings in our lives that we kneel before Him “astonished and amazed by His wondrous ways”…that we are left “speechless” (as Steven Curtis Chapman sang about). That ability and awareness of God’s supremacy is, in actuality, a gift from God, a gift of His Holy Spirit, placed within you at your Baptism. It’s a gift that you will always have, but it’s a gift that can be ignored.
Too often, I think, we try to play God, or we act as though our wants and needs outweigh God’s. They don’t. They can’t. HE is the one and only Creator of all Creation. When we stand in awe of God, it shows that we recognize His supremacy and power over us. It means that we stand in amazement that such a wonderful, huge and indefinably majestic God could ever love us like He does…so much that He’d die for us.
Many folks have forgotten just how powerful God is. Many other folks refuse to believe that there is a punishment for our actions, or that there is even a Hell. Make no mistake, though, there is a Hell. The devil wants you there, and the Lord God did everything He could to be sure we don’t go there (that’s what the cross is all about).
Don’t ever confuse God’s mercy with weakness. Your Father in Heaven is all merciful, yes, but He is also all-powerful.
I hope this made sense, and I hope you’ll reflect on it further, the next time everyone sings Awesome God at Mass.
God is aw(e)ful proud of you.
Keep walking your walk.
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