Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Fear of God

Father Ignatius waited until the congregation sat down and then he started his sermon.

“We often read in the Bible about people fearing God, and the fear of God. And that’s an issue which I would like to address today.

“What is meant by the fear of God?

“Do we fear that unless we obey Him and do as He commands He’ll send thunder and lightning from heaven and destroy us and our cities? Like in Sodom and Gomorrah?

“Or perhaps He would allow illness and terrible things to happen to us because we failed Him in some way or other?”

The priest stopped for a few seconds to gauge the mood of the congregation; and then continued.

“There are, of course, many kinds of fear. If a tiger were to suddenly enter this church we would all fear for our lives and we’d run out from every available exit. Most of us would even forget to genuflect as we rushed out of the building.”

The congregation laughed.

“But that is not the fear I speak of …

“If we believe that our God is a loving, caring fatherly God, whose only wish is that some day we all join Him in Heaven; then what is there to fear?

“Our fear is not, and should not be, a fear borne of the possibility of punishment and retribution. A fear that, unless we do as He says, we’ll end up in hell and eternal damnation.

“That is not the fear that God wishes for us. After all, He gave us the choice to love Him or not.

“Sadly, many do not either love Him or fear Him. And they seem to be thriving all right! He has not punished them or turned them into pillars of salt! In His loving nature, He has allowed them the luxury to choose as they wish.

“So … what fear is there for us then, who proclaim to believe in Him and to love Him?

“It is the fear of hurting Him.

“I repeat … the fear of hurting Him. Just as when we have a loving father or mother who do the utmost for us; and they set their standards and values to teach us how to grow up as decent, kind human beings. We, their children, follow their rules, through gritted teeth perhaps, just because we love them and do not want to hurt them.

“That’s the kind of fear we owe our God, our Creator and our loving Father in Heaven. The fear of hurting Him. The fear of disappointing Him by our behavior. A fear borne out of respect for Him; a fear nurtured by true love given to Him freely just as He has loved us.

“Not a fear of what He might do to us. But a fear of hurting someone who loves us.

“Remember … even the devil fears God. But he fears Him in a different way. He fears Him because he knows Him very well. The devil certainly knows God better than any of us does; because he has met Him face to face.

“And yet, having been close to God and experienced His love, the devil chose to disobey and strike out independently on his own. He thought he could do better than love and follow his Creator.

“And God’s loving nature let him go. He did not punish him and destroy him once and for all. He just allowed him to walk away free out of Paradise.

“It is that very act of rebellion by the devil which resulted in death for all of us. We were not destined to die, but to share Paradise for eternity with God. But the devil in his destructive, impudent rebellious nature has upset what was meant to be and his sin resulted in us undergoing death.

“God our Creator favors life. He created life.  In order to redeem us and save us from death, He loved us so much that He sent us His only Son, Jesus, so that we may have life, and have it to the full.

“All we have to do to receive this eternal life is to accept Jesus as God’s only Son, our Savior, and to fear the possibility of ever hurting Him again by our behavior.

“God will never send us to hell. It is we who choose to go there by our way of life; and by choosing the devil instead.”


  1. The wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost, fear of the Lord, is a deep sense of awe at His goodness, greatness, power, love, and everything else about Him. If only we nurtured that holy fear, we wouldn't want to sin or choose hell.

    On a lighter note, why fight somebody who is so much more powerful than we are? I'm thinking of going into the boxing ring against a heavyweight champion and I'm just a little feather.

  2. Years ago, I read a book about Medjugorje and the visionaries asked Mary about hell and she said that God never sends people to hell. People choose it. Free will. I cannot imagine anyone choosing hell.
    I love your explanation of fear of God. Like Barb said, it is a wonderful gift.
    God bless.

  3. Hi Victor,
    This is an excellent post. Like Barb, I understand fear of the Lord as holy awe. The truth is that perfect love casts out (the bad) fear and this is the kind of love we need to ask the Lord for.

    Doesn't mean bad things won't happen on this earth though. God permits things we may not understand here on earth but will understand in heaven. He allows it for our "correction".

    Did you ever get a holy spanking before? I have. This is when one hits the ground hard but God uses it for good. Our choices hold back the fullness of God's blessing upon us and allow the evil one "wiggle room". God permits things to happen because He knows He will bring good out of them but they are painful to walk through. Once we get to the point of complete trust in God it's easier I guess but how many people have this complete and utter trust in God? There are some no doubt but they are likely fairly small in number.

  4. Hello Barb, Colleen and Mary,

    Thank you so much for writing in. Yes, our fear of the Lord should be one of respect, a fear of hurting Him, a fear motivated by love of Him, and not the dread of punishment.

    He does allow bad to happen in this world; to those who love Him and those who don't. Perhaps it is for our correction, as Mary said; but also because good does result from such painful experiences too.

    It's that point of complete trust which seems so illusive at times though. I pray that He forgives that weakness in our human nature.

    God bless you Barb, Colleen and Mary.

  5. Do you think the fear of God might take on different meaning when you reflect on the Trinity? Avoiding sin out of a fear of hurting God means something when I think of Jesus in His suffering but I can't imagine having the power to hurt God the Father. But, then, I can imagine His disappointment. And the Holy Spirit is pure love so could there be any fear there at all? I think it all becomes pretty simple when we become like little children but analysing it could take a lifetime, don't you think?

    Thank you for another thought-provoking story, Victor.
    God bless:-)

    1. Yes Vicky, the Trinity; God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are love; pure love given to us with no conditions or expected payback. So, this being the case, can we "hurt" this Trinity by our actions? By "hurt" I don't of course mean injure and wound in the physical sense, although we did just that to Jesus. I mean hurt one's very soul, one's very being; just like a child would hurt a parent by something they have done or ommitted to do. The loving parent, like God our Father, continues to love the child; even though he is greatly disappointed and "hurt" by the child's actions.

      I believe that God, in the form of He alone, or as part of the Trinity, is deeply hurt and saddened by our actions; and yet, despite our evil deeds He still loves us enough to hope that we wake up from our ill-chosen path and return to His forgiving and welcoming arms.

      His love for us is so intense that He allows us the freedom, the luxury even, to choose which way we live our life. He will not force our hand in any way to accept and submit to His will and His way.

      Few earthly parents can behave like that.

      Thank you for raising a very good point Vicky.

      God bless.

  6. Victor, thank you for sharing this insightful, well written post. I needed the chuckle of "...Most of us would even forget to genuflect as we rushed out of the building.”


    1. It's so nice to see you visiting here JBR. Please return soon and comment too.

      Thank you for your kind words about this post. I try to add a little humor to my stories to make the whole thing flow more easily. There are more Fr Ignatius stories in my FREE E Books on the right hand side of this post.

      God bless you JBR.

  7. Victor,

    I was thinking of fear of the Lord as holy awe of the Lord, but Barb and Mary have already said it all so well! So.. nothing to add except I enjoyed your story. Thank you!

    God bless!

  8. Barb, Mary and you are so right, Sue.

    I suspect many people miss-understand fear of the Lord as real terrified fear. As in the Old Testament when His punishments were very true and realistic.

    God bless.

  9. I've often wondered what it truly means to fear God. I do believe that it involves a holy awe. But I like this perspective, which I had never thought of. I want to always fear disappointing my loving Father.

  10. Yes Sarah; we fear disappointing and hurting Him.

    In the Old Testament people feared Him for real because His punishments were severe. But through Christ, a loving God is not feared for His punishments.

    God bless.



God bless you.

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