Thursday, May 19, 2011

TheoLOLogy - Fear

LoL by: staycee79

There are some passages in scripture that seem to be telling us to fear. This is due to the fact that the word fear can actually be defined as a "profound reverence and awe especially toward God" (thank you Merriam Webster).

There are many examples in scripture of the reverence/awe type of fear, one such being:
Psalm 34: 8-11 O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. O fear the Lord, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want. The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
In Martin Luther's explanation of the Ten Commandments, after every commandment he asks "What does this mean?" and answers it "We should fear and love God that we..." For example:
The Eighth Commandment. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. What does this mean?--Answer. We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
Reverence and awe are proper attitudes to take towards God. God's power is supreme, and God is responsible for all that is. When we act in reverence and love to God then we strive to live our lives in the manner that God deems best for us (including not bearing false witness against our neighbors).

However, when we hear the word fear we are usually thinking of "an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger" (from Merriam Webster). Fear is a natural response to danger, and it is helpful in aiding us to avoid and prepare for danger. The dog in the picture could have a legitimate fear about being attacked by a cat that is about its own size (although I love cats, I would be terrified of a cat that is as big as me). Perhaps the dog had been attacked by the cat before, or the cat is an unknown threat.

Fear can become harmful, however, when it is not helpful in avoiding/preparing for danger. Fear can become overwhelming, paralyzing us from proper action. Many people also have irrational fears, fears about things that can't happen or are extremely unlikely to happen. Whether our fears are rational or irrational, we can be reassured of God's presence.
Psalm 27: 1-3 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh — my adversaries and foes — they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
The Psalmist is empowered by God to not be afraid of adversaries and to be confident in God's protection. In the Psalmist's view, fear is not rational in his situation because God is his light and salvation.

Jesus also talks about fear in some of his teachings.
Matthew 10:26-31‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Earlier in this chapter in Mathew's gospel, Jesus commissions the Twelve to go out and proclaim the good news but Jesus acknowledges that in many ways he is sending his disciples out like sheep to be among wolves. Jesus says that there will be hatred, persecution, betrayals, and even death. But Jesus also says to not fear. Even though people would normally and legitimately be afraid in these situations, Jesus reassures his disciples with the facts that the truth will be known, people can destroy their bodies but not their souls, and that his disciples are valued by God.

Although there are plenty of things and people in this world that are dangerous and can inspire fear in our hearts and minds, God's loving presence should overwhelm our hearts and minds with hope and courage. There's nothing to be scared of when God is with us.