Responding to a “pew to pulpit” question:

What does it mean to “fear God”? Are we to be afraid of Him?

Fear is very real and it is often psychologically and physically stronger than we may even realize.

Sometimes fear grows out of respect. When we genuinely respect someone or something, it can generate a healthy fear.

We also often fear someone or something that has power or authority over us. Certainly God is an easy example of this, but it could also include parents, teachers, bosses and others.

It’s also common for us to fear the unknown and to fear situations where we feel our safety is at risk.

With that understanding of fear, should we be afraid of God?

Jesus Christ plainly states that we have, in fact, many reasons to fear God, as He is one who can “destroy both body and soul in Hell” (Matthew 10:28 NIV); but only a few sentences later, proclaims that we need not “be afraid; [as we] are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31 NIV). We can also respect, appreciate, and understand God’s power; but that should not be reason alone for us to fear God.

God does not want us to fear Him. God wants us to love Him, to have a relationship with Him, and to be appreciative of and thankful for Him.

If God wanted us to be afraid of Him, I’m sure Jesus Christ’s ministry would have looked much different than it did. Instead of coming with grace, hospitality and understanding, perhaps Christ would have approached others with severe judgment, not the relatively mild kind he offered up every once in a while.

If God wanted us to be afraid of Him, would the major themes of Christ’s messages consist of love, joy, the kingdom of God, generosity, grace, forgiveness and hope? No, they would have been messages of discipline, punishments, responsibilities and a distinct lack of forgiveness.

If God wanted to grip us with fear, God would not have given us as much responsibility and free will as we have. We would most likely be controlled in our thoughts and actions, all for the sake of fulfilling God’s will. But that’s not how it is.

All of the serving, worshipping, loving, praising, praying to, and relationship-building we do with God should come out of a source of love, not of fear and intimidation. Only by knowing more about God can we be certain of that.

On the surface there may appear to be layers of fear, but trust me when I say, deep down, God only wants the best for His beloved children.