A voice from the other side of the world once said something of me that was not true. From New Zealand, after talking with me for around eight minutes about how the relationship between Heartsong and the Memphis Islamic Center began, one of the interviewers said, “You are an amazingly fearless man.” My immediate response was, “The one I follow is the most amazingly fearless man ever!”
It’s easy to think of someone as fearless from the other side of the world. But up close and personal he would have been able to detect all kinds of fear in me. I still fear being misunderstood. I fear when the church is struggling to keep up our financial obligations. And I certainly felt fear during the time of our initial moves toward a friendship with MIC, and when some of those we thought were with us turned out not to be, or whenever I am criticized while trying my best to faithfully follow the Lord. And don’t get me started about my fears regarding the Fearsome Mary Stone! ;>)
But not all fear is bad. In fact, it may save our hides from time to time. It may cause us to reconsider our course of action and veer toward a truer and more faithful course. It may cause us to grow and deepen in our relationship with the Lord and others. And there are some fears that are holy!
Among my greatest fears is one I have concerning coming face to face with the Lord for the first time. It’s not a fear that he will reject me. I’m secure regarding his sacrifice covering all my and your sins. I fear that I might disappoint him. Not because I am human. He is far more accepting of my faults and failures and my shortcomings than I am. The fear is that I might have to face him knowing I have not spent my life as he wants me to. I know that when he sees me walking into the Kingdom come, he will be looking behind me to see who I’m bringing home with me, as he will with all who say they are his followers. Trust me, that is a motivating fear. It’s a holy fear. See, I love him so much I use that fear to keep me hard after him, on the love path, staying at his ways to the best of my ability, and when failing to do that getting right back at them again-with him as my constant guide for course correction.
That is one of only two fears of God worth having. One of only two fears of God that does us, him or the Kingdom any good. The other fear of God worth having is that one called “the beginning of wisdom” in the bible. It is not fear in the sense of being scared of God, but instead a deep sense of awe at the power and majesty of God-the immensity of God as opposed to our limitations. It is that “fear” that causes us to take God seriously. And when we do, and begin to try to please this awesome God, we discover that the only way to do that is for us to love this God who loved us into being, and to love others whom he loves to the best of our ability.
And by the way, saying that the one I follow is amazingly fearless is also not true. Jesus does fear; God also fears. God fears as parents fear for their children. God fears that you and I, that any created child of God, might completely misspend our lives in existence instead of following Jesus into real life-abundant life, overflowing life-life that is of an eternal quality. The fear of God is a function of God’s love for us, and the only two fears worth having are also functions of our love for him.