Fear of the Lord or Faith in the Lord

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve been taught that God is our loving Heavenly Father, that He is the father of our spirits and loves us with a deeper love than we can comprehend. He loved us so much that He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for us and to atone for our sins so we can return to live with Him. When I pray, I picture a loving father listening to me. But in many scriptures we are taught, “Let the fear of the Lord be upon you” (2 Chronicles 19:7) and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalms 111:10). Am I supposed to fear the Lord or is “there…no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear?” (1 John 4:18).

 

Respect for Cars Analogy:

Recently two friends, fifteen year-old girls, were walking together to high school in the morning. At the crosswalk they pushed the stop button. It turned red alerting drivers to stop and they walked through the crosswalk. One of the girls made it across safely. The other was hit by a car which sped away. The girl who was hit was rushed to the hospital with two breaks in one leg and a cracked skull. She did not require surgery and is recovering well. The girl who walked through unscathed physically stayed home half the day and returned to school. Rumors and misinformation were rampant. The girl who was safe was called into the counselor’s office and asked why she was at school when she’d been hit by a car that day. The hit-and-run driver later turned himself in because of surveillance video released of his car.

 

This incident brought back my own memories of a similar incident in high school. Mormon teenagers or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are in high school can attend a religion class before or during their school day. I had the opportunity to attend released time seminary. That meant that during the school day I would walk across the street to our seminary building to attend a class focused on teachings from our church. I did not earn high school credits for the class, but enjoyed the time learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ with friends who shared my beliefs. We were taught by a teacher hired by the church. The crosswalk we used had a button that would activate a blinking yellow light, alerting drivers to slow down. I had seminary during the first lunch period so teenage drivers were exiting the school parking lot and hurrying to get to their favorite fast food restaurants. We had learned that cars didn’t stop for a blinking yellow light. They stopped only when we were in the crosswalk. The day of this incident I was with my brother and a friend. I pushed the button, darted across, heard an awful squealing and thump and looked back to see my friend tossed across the hood of a car into the windshield and then thrown back onto the street. My brother was right behind her but unharmed. Somehow an ambulance was called. Somehow she got help. While I wasn’t physically harmed, I had an increased fear of being hit by a car while crossing the street.

 

Fear can be a motivator to keep us safe or it can be debilitating. When crossing a street, we should respect the bulk and speed of cars. We should take precautions to keep ourselves safe, but if we focus on paralyzing fear, we won’t be able to go outside, let alone progress.

 

In the Bible Dictionary of the King James version published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this is what it says about fear. “Care should be taken to distinguish between the two different uses of this word. The ‘fear of the Lord’ is frequently spoken of as part of man’s duty (e.g., Psalms 110:10; Ecclesiastes. 12:13); it is also described as ‘godly fear’ (Hebrews 12:28). In such passages fear is equivalent to reverence, awe, worship, and is therefore an essential part of the attitude of mind in which we ought to stand toward the All-holy God. On the other hand fear is spoken of as something unworthy of a child of God, something that ‘perfect love casteth out’ (1 John 4:18). The first effect of Adam’s sin was that he was afraid (Genesis 3:10). Sin destroys that feeling of confidence God’s child should feel in a loving Father, and produces instead a feeling of shame and guilt. Ever since the Fall God has been teaching men not to fear, but with penitence to ask forgiveness in full confidence of receiving it” (Bible Dictionary, p. 672).

 

I’ve often felt guilt in relation to keeping the commandments or doing all that is required as a member of the church. I’ve heard some say that they’ve left the church because of all the guilt they feel and once they leave they don’t feel guilt anymore. How do I know if I’m feeling an unproductive guilt or fear or godly fear? What do I do about the guilt or fear?

 

The key for me is what happens when I turn to Christ. I used to think that repentance was something I should do only when I’d done something really bad and then it was a punishment. Elder David A. Bednar taught that “a consistent theme of repentance [is] the process of turning to God” (Turn Ye, Turn Ye Unto the Lord Your God, Ricks College Devotional, January 9, 2001). I think that our loving Heavenly Father wants us to come to him. To tell him our guilt and fears and then ask how we can improve. He doesn’t want us to be weighed down. He doesn’t want us to fear what is happening around us or inside of us. He wants to help us. Fear of the Lord is supposed to bring us to God, not make us run away. After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit in the Garden of Eden they hid from God. Satan had tempted them, they succumbed, and they felt fear that God would find out. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou was naked? Hast thou eaten the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 7-11). God didn’t yell at them or tell them they were bad. He asked what had happened and then he made a way for them to fix their mistake. They had to leave the Garden of Eden, but God had provided a way for them to return to Him. He provided a Savior to atone for their sins and our sins.

 

When we feel guilt, Satan wants us to fear, to turn from our Savior.When we sin, our loving Heavenly Father wants us to turn to the Savior. In turning to the Savior, we show that we know that we are wrong and with His help we want to make it right. Our faith in a Savior who can save us from our sins and imperfections allows us to “go outside,” to not fear, and to progress.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 at 4:05 pm and is filed under I'm a Mormon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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