Joe Gliniewicz was married, a father of four, an Army veteran, and a police officer for 32 years. He mentored young people hoping to become law enforcement officers, and was beloved by many. After he was gunned down Tuesday morning, with the killers on the loose, four schools in the Chicago area went into lockdown. People barricaded themselves in their homes. The community grieved the loss of a hero while fearing for their lives.
Fear is an essential part of life, protecting us from much that would harm us. We wanted our young boys to be afraid to walk into the street and to fear touching a hot stove. But fear can be misplaced. Psychologists estimate that ninety percent of our fears involve insignificant issues, while sixty percent of what we fear will never happen.
The answer is to fear appropriately.
I recently read Mike Yaconelli’s Dangerous Wonder, a moving call to joyful abandon in childlike faith. (For my review of Mike’s book, go here.) After describing the mediocrity and boredom in which so many of us live, he calls us not to be happy, but to be afraid.
Specifically, to fear God: “If Jesus is the Son of God, we should be terrified of what he will do when he gets his hands on our lives; if the Bible is the Word of God, we should be quaking every time we read its soul-piercing words; if the church is the body of Christ, our culture should be threatened by our intimidating presence. But our culture is not threatened by our presence; it’s not terrified of the Jesus in our lives; and it’s not quaking at the Word of God. Why? Because we have familiarized the gospel, sanitized it, flattened it, taken the sting and the terror out of it” (his italics).
Jesus, speaking to Jews who were enslaved by the most fearsome military force the world had ever seen, warned them: “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” (Matthew 10:28). His logic is irrefutable: What’s the worst the world can do to you? What’s the worst God can do to you?
The point is not to live in terror of a hateful Judge, but to reverence a loving but holy Father. It is to approach him with the awe due his majesty.
Theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher defined religion as “a feeling of absolute dependence.” Biblical faith is much more than that, but it is at least that. Think about those in the Bible who truly met God: Moses at the burning bush, Isaiah when he saw a vision of heaven, Saul on the road to Damascus, John in his cave on Patmos. What was their first response? When angels appeared before humans, what were their first words, always? “Fear not.”
If we see God for who he really is, the world will see his glory reflected in us (see Exodus 34:29). (Tweet this) If we truly respect the Bible as divine revelation, the world will see the Bible at work in our lives. We will fear the world less, because we fear the King of the world more.
When last were you awed by God?