The bible says, “the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.” We need to pray for fear of the Lord more than the fear of people and what they think of us. It is a gift everyone receives at their confirmation. Do we believe we have this gift?
What is the Fear of the Lord? The Fear of the Lord is not servile fear (having to do with punishment); it is filial fear (the dread of offending or being separated from God who is our loving father). You might say it is deep prayerful respect for who God is in our life and the created order. It is also a gift of the Holy Spirit we all receive at confirmation that we should be using in our Catholic life. The Fear of the Lord is rooted in our love for God. We should love God with all our heart! He is abba, papa, father. He has given us everything and we deeply love and reverence him. The thought of offending him fills us with dread! We cannot bear the idea that we have offended God in any way; we love him too much. The Fear of the Lord is rooted in our admiration for God.
Through this gift of Holy Fear, we hold God in awe. We are filled with wonder as we contemplate his glory and all he has done. The Fear of God is rooted in our desire for unity with God. Love seeks union. We thus come to fear sin that creates distance between God and us. We fear losing the one we love. The Fear of God is rooted in our appreciation of God’s Holiness. God is holy, and the gift of Holy Fear strikes within us a deep awareness of this holiness, as well as a deep understanding that we must be made holy before coming into his full presence. The gift of fear helps us to appreciate that we do not merely walk into God’s presence in the spiritual equivalent of “jeans and a T-Shirt.” Holy Fear inspires us to be clothed in holy attire, to get ready to meet God. Just as we might bathe and wear fine clothes to visit a world leader, we reverence God enough to be robed in righteousness by his grace before we go to meet him. Holy Fear makes us serious about this preparation.
We get ready to go and meet a God who we love and hold in awe. We know he is holy, and so we strive to receive the holiness without which none of us can see God (cf Heb 12:14).
Pray for a holy reverent fear of God. Get fear right. Stop getting so anxious about what others think of you. Your destiny will hinge on getting fear right. If we reverently fear God more than the world, then we will speak out even in the face of opposition. We love the Lord more than we love the world. Therefore, we speak! But we might be ruled by another unholy fear, fear of what others might think of me. When we fear man more than God, we are more concerned with what people think of us and what we do, than what God thinks.
Consider some examples: A man goes up to a group of other men who are gossiping and speaking inappropriately about women in the office. He laughs at off-color jokes and does not attempt to steer the conversation in more appropriate directions. He does this because he fears rejection. He fears man more than God.
A young woman thinks she “has to do this” to be popular and desirable. She fears man more than God. What human beings believe is more important to her than what God thinks. She might as well minimize the displeasure of God by saying. “Oh well, God understands,” but she fears man more than God.
A pastor of a parish has a mandate from God and the Church to preach the whole counsel of God. But over the years, he has struggled to preach the hard things. After all, teaching on things like abortion, fornication, divorce, contraception, homosexuality, euthanasia, capital punishment, and so forth, causes some people to be upset. He fears this anger; he fears offending people. He fears being misunderstood; he goes silent as a prophet and becomes a people-pleaser instead. He respects and fears man more than God.
A parent knows somehow that she is to raise her children in fear of the Lord and train them in godly ways. But oh, they protest. So, little by little, she lets her authority erode and the kids get their way. The oldest, a teenager, doesn’t want to go to church anymore. But after all, “You can’t force religion on kids,” they think. Here too, the parents fear their children more than God. They have greater respect for their children more than for God.
There is an old saying, “If I kneel before God, I can stand before any man.” It makes sense that it is a lot easier to fear (respect) one than try to appease many. Hence, the more we learn to fear (respect) God, the less concerned we become with what others think. Now, to be sure this is not an invitation to become a sociopath who cares not one whit what others think. We are to remain polite, groom ourselves, and not intentionally offend. But, we are instructed by the Lord to be freed of the fearful trepidation of what others think. Fear of the Lord is to hold God in awe, to have a reverence for Him born in deep love and gratitude. And out of this love and gratitude, we fear to offend him more than any other. Oh, come let us adore Him. Christ, the Lord.