“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.“— Proverbs 1.7 (KJV)
As a kid, I grew up with the “fear of God” to not sin or act in ways that weren’t “right before God.” So many things were forbidden, out of fear of making God angry. The anthropomorphic figure of God was real, and not in a way that was reassuring of anything. I felt God was looking out for my mistakes to keep a record and hold it against me in judgement someday.
Biblical passages were manipulated to support this idea. “You must fear the Lord, lest he smite you!” If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that I’ve done some messed up things in my life–and I mean bad–yet I have seen nothing but mercy and opportunity. My relationship with the Divine has evolved, for which I am grateful; however, how do I make sense of this idea of fearing God, especially if it is in the very book I deem sacred?
I certainly do not fear God, i.e., I am not afraid of God because, through Jesus Christ, I met what I believe God meant for us to experience (love). Today, I consider how my interpretive attitudes are informed as I reconsider the text. If all that’s important is what Christ culminated in Himself, demonstrated in Himself, and emanated from Himself (through compassion and mercy), what has changed from the former covenant to the new?
Rules must no longer be needed to keep people in line. Or, could it have been that who really needed to keep people in line wasn’t God at all, but those in power? I see nothing may have changed, from the Hebrew Bible to the New Testament, other than perspective, and so should mine change. I believe this is the way of the Holy Spirit, just as I believe this the way of truth. I don’t mean truth changes; I mean that our perceptions of truth change, until we get it right or closer to it.
Here it goes. I have my money on that we, humanity, didn’t get God in 700 B.C.E., in the way we might get God today. Given my journey and all that it has taught me, I know the aforementioned image of God isn’t God, at least not my God. Therefore there is only one way I can read texts like Proverbs 1.7, of which I cannot go back to seeing any other way.
The only thinkable reason people might fear God is because they view God to be reflective of their own selves, that is, their broken selves. Who hasn’t been broken, marked, or tried in life–even just a little bit? When God is known further, one may see there is no room for fear because with more love, trust becomes easier. Therefore, fear in God is not a formula for knowledge or wisdom. It is what the Proverbs passage says it is, the “beginning” of said knowledge; not the middle journey of knowing and certainly not the end of the most profound truth.
Fear was the way people could begin to experience any version of an active God in their lives. Now, I find more acts of love in my life, which I attribute to God, making me think I am further in my faith journey and spiritual growth. As I leave that earlier stage of thinking of thinking and I walk toward a deeper understanding and spiritual encounter with God, the more I find that the conclusion of knowledge is one that is contagiously affecting me to being more loving, kind, and compassionate.
I am less afraid of making mistakes and more boldly searching for more opportunities to love back, love more, and love deeper the deeper I trod in truth. Maybe it’s because the more we know the less scared we become, because we fear the unknown. The response is simple and one you should consider today, “Explore God further.” The more you know, the less afraid you will be and the more love you will find for you as well as to share.
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