The Expression Of Reverence – Fear

The second part of Professor Gregory Spencer’s article “Reverence: The Church Without Shoes,” taken from his book Awakening the Quieter Virtues, deals with what he calls The Reverence Continuum. From his study, he sees reverence expressed “in a kind of progression from fear to joy.”

I think he’s onto something. I’ve noticed in discussion with emergent thinkers like Mike Morrell or with various atheists, one of the issues that comes up repeatedly is this idea that God is a tyrant standing over us so that we cower in fear. I had a family member dismiss the Old Testament on these same grounds—God isn’t like that, they say. (Well, except for the atheist who says, That is what the Bible makes God out to be and I can’t accept a God like that, so I choose no god at all.)

What they miss is where a holy fear of a Holy God leads—joy, reverential joy. But fear is a part of this, and we’re not talking about the awe and respect that many think of when they speak of the fear of the Lord, though those responses are on the Reverence Continuum.

I remember when I first realized that a part of me was just a little afraid of my dad. It was a shocking realization and I felt a stab of disloyalty because I loved my father. But we were in the child-rearing phase when my mother said on occasion, Wait until your father gets home. So yes, I had a little healthy fear that I had broken faith with my dad, that he would be displeased and would deliver a just punishment that I didn’t want to bear.

Of course my childhood fear of my father is only a fraction of the fear that those prophets of old experienced when they fell on their faces before God. Here’s what Dr. Spencer had to say:

I don’t know about you, but Jesus scares me with his warning about how he’ll separate the sheep and goats and send the goats, who did not attend to “the least” among us, to eternal punishment (Matthew 25:31-46). He said this not long after he cursed a fig tree because it did not bear fruit—and the tree withered and died (21:18-19). Jesus may be the son of love, but he is also the one who told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mark 8:33). Would it be appropriate to stroll up to God and say, “Hey Big Guy, nice job on the giraffe”?

He then elaborates on the statement in Proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Sometimes the only thing that gets us started in the right direction is fear: the fear of getting caught or the fear of being embarrassed at poor performance. Fear may not be the end of wisdom, but it is often the beginning because it shows we recognize our impoverishment. If fear is the only thing that gets us to kneel, then being frightened by God’s power and holiness is meaningful, though being in this situation might reveal more about us than it does about God.

But best of all is Dr. Spencer’s conclusion about fear as an expression of reverence:

Good fear can also put bad fear in its place. If we worship the gods of acceptance, popularity and success, we will overly fear rejection, loneliness and failure. If we revere God more, we will fear those lesser gods less. Whom do we most fear to disappoint?

What can I add to that!

Published in: on January 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. Again, really good!


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