You’ve heard it said, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4.18) If we believe this to be true, then how can we also read in today’s reading from Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life?” (Proverbs 14.27) How can the Church, on the one hand teach us not to fear, and on the other that fear is a fountain of life?
I am constantly speaking about allowing the Church to shape our life for our salvation. As fallen human beings, our passions (fear is a passion) have been twisted, and as Orthodox Christian’s we work to subdue or even defeat the passions which lead to death. I believe that is the essence of today’s challenge.
If we allow fear to torment us, as it does in our fallen state, we remain paralyzed not growing closer to God. If, on the other hand, we allow fear to guide us away from sin and toward Christ, then fear is a fountain of life. The “wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6.23) so any fear that causes us to avoid sin leads to life.
In our fallen state, we fear physical death for selfish purposes. We will miss our family. We have more to accomplish in life to die now! We want to see our grandchildren grow. All these are self-oriented, and therefore sinful reasons to live. Our challenge is to evolve from fallen fear to Godly fear.
Godly fear is what we feel when we don’t want to offend God. Godly fear keeps us from a life of greed. Look at today’s reading from Proverbs below, and we see what Godly fear can accomplish. Godly fear keeps us slow to anger, stops oppression, and can silence a harsh word. But Godly fear does not end with merely stopping sin. It leads to love.
When we love, as God desires us to love, we will not be quick to anger. We will not oppress others or speak a harsh word. When we love, we no longer need fear to avoid sin, love enough will be enough to avoid sin. It is a reminder of the Old Testament was given to us. In our fallen state, fear is given to teach us how to live. Once we learn to live, then love takes over.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death. In a multitude of people is the glory of a king, but without people a prince is ruined. He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot. He who oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him. The wicked is overthrown through his evil-doing, but the righteous finds refuge through his integrity. Wisdom abides in the mind of a man of understanding, but it is not known in the heart of fools. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. A servant who deals wisely has the king's favor, but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. – Proverbs 14.27-15.4