“Render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom is due, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour..” Romans 13:7
“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God…” Deut 10:20
OK, now a quick story. Our church one year had a float in a local parade. The float consisted of a small structure built on the back of a trailer that sort of resembled our church building, along our church bus. There was a gaggle on folks on the trailer, and several of us on the ground walking along behind and beside the trailer. The intent by the organizers and float builders was for the church’s name to get out in the community. Most people involved with either riding or walking limited themselves to smiling and waving, but since I am hardwired to put the gospel out, I secured permission to preach along the parade route while handing out tracts. I proceeded to do so for a good solid 45 minutes
As we neared the end of the parade, I jumped on the church bus to get a ride back to my car. Rounding a corner, we were flagged down by a clown. He was a member of a more prominent church in town that has a ‘clown ministry’. This ministry, as far as I can tell, involves dressing up…well, as a clown. I’m not 100% sure what goes on past that. Probably something involving oversize shoes. The aforementioned clown wanted to talk to me. He had been doing his clown-ness a few floats behind us, and had an issue with my approach. We discussed it briefly, and one of his parting statements was that he was concerned people might think that God is “big and scary”.
The problem, dear friend, is that God just happens to be big and scary. Men are commanded to fear God for a variety of reasons. Jesus warned people to fear he who could destroy both body and soul. A man who lives on God’s earth, breathing God’s air and eating God’s groceries while in flagrant violation of God’s word has an eventual rendezvous with God scheduled, and he ought to be fearful.
If you discuss this very long with people you will get comments like “ I don’ t think God wants us to cower down and be afraid. I think he wants our respect.” That’s an interesting point, but the fact is that God uses the word ‘fear’ when he could have just as easily used the word ‘respect’. The word ‘honor’ is in the Bible enough times that I have no doubt God is aware of it’s existence, but yet he didn’t use the word ‘honour’, he used the word ‘fear’.
I pondered this and pondered this. I even looked up every single use of the word ‘fear ‘ in the Bible. Then one day it hit me what the problem is. We’re illiterate. Bound by the narrow definitions and usages of dumbed –down America; I hadn’t considered how the word is actually used in scripture. Fear, like love, is an emotion. But fear, like love, is also a verb. The Bible says “For God so loved the world..” and the verb in that clause is ‘loved’. The context establishes that God doesn’t sit up in the third heaven with tears rolling down his face because he’s just so crazy about me, he loved me. He doesn’t have a refrigerator up there with my picture on it. He ‘loved’ me, and the rest of the verse defines what the love was; the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary. It’s a definite action that occurred at a definite point in the past and it’s called ‘loved’.
The fear of God is something you feel, but fearing God is something you do. I have 20 or 30 scripture references to prove my point with, but unless we establish that basic fact, everything else is a waste of time and magnetic ink. Fearing God is a definite and observable action defined by context in scripture. It doesn’t mean cowering in a corner, averting your eyes and whimpering. It is an activity, not an attitude. Over the next few installments, I hope to use the Bible to define what that activity is.
Comments are welcome.