Article of the Month

September 2009

Character Matters:

Which “Fear” Belongs in Christian Character?


The Scriptures abound with references to good fear and bad fear.  Just as an example:  Revelation 14:7 announces, “Fear God;” but Revelation 1:17 cautions, “Fear not.”  What is the lesson for those who are attempting to conform their characters to Scriptural standards?

Frequently when seeming contradictions appear in the Bible, the problem is cleared up by realizing that there is poor translation or that differing Greek words had been used, etc.  That is not the case here.  Good and bad “fears” are both translated from the same Hebrew and Greek words.  The lesson here is that good and bad fears are both rooted in the same human emotion.

The human conscience (in its natural state or in its spiritually-trained state) has a built-in sensitivity.  It doesn’t want to do or to experience anything to its detriment, or to the detriment of others.  We call this “fear.”  Fear is good when we exercise this sensitivity so as not to hurt someone we love or respect, or when we exercise caution against our excesses.  Fear is bad when it paralyzes us from doing what is right due to our being too sensitive to outside forces so that they control us into doing or not doing that which is the best course.

Thus, when King David wrote that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,”  (Psalm 111:10), he is showing us that REVERENCE (a good fear) for the Most High ultimately will lead to wise thoughts, decisions, and character.  Solomon also wrote this (Proverbs 9:10).  When Jesus tells us “Fear not” (Revelation 1:17), he is telling us that in his presence and care, nothing can hinder our progress toward good unless we let it.

The Christian’s total commitment to and love for his God makes him “fearful” lest he should offend his God.  This is good and proper.  It is the true definition of reverence. Bad fear in a Christian is a concern for what others might think of him or do to him.  This fear paralyzes and makes growth in the spirit difficult if not impossible.  As the Apostle Paul summarizes in Hebrews 13:5 and 6:

“The Lord is my helper, and

I will not fear what man shall do unto me”