Vol. 5, No. 10
~ Page 15 ~
There is a difference between random fear and righteous, godly fear. Random crimes cause whole communities to live in a justifiable paranoia. Terrorists, by definition, leave some of that effect upon a country. Those affected painfully note the absence of even distorted reason behind acts of violence. The slain and injured committed no particular crime, offended no particular crime boss and warranted no such treatment. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time was their tragic misfortune. The living about them mourn -- and worry. Who might be next? The behavior of individuals doesn't matter. Living righteously will not ensure exemption from the sniper's bullet or the terrorist's hate. This is random fear.
The Christian has the opportunity to overcome random fear with the victory of faith. Jittery though he might be, the Christian knows of bliss beyond temporal sufferings in this life. He knows of justice beyond a world of injustices. But, the Christian still fears. Yes, 1 John 4:18 taunts "perfect love casts out fear," but Philippians 2:12 reminds the saved to work out their salvation "with fear and trembling." There is a fear of God that is justified; but it is so much better than random fear. And it is so for that very reason -- it is just.
Violent men who try to play God by instilling fear in a locale's citizenry do so arbitrarily, without any sense of fair play. God, however, is a righteous judge (1 Timothy 4:8). He is quite different in his approach. Consider the following ways:
Violent men have no standards but their own lunacy; but God has laid down a standard and made it clear (John 12:48). Those who obey can be saved. Those who do not obey will have their fear justified and their disobedience recompensed in the last day (2 Thessalonians. 1:7-9).
Violent men seek death; but God provides opportunity for and hopes for life. He is the Author of truth, and desires that all men know it (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He patiently waits for more men to be penitent (2 Peter 3:9). He has no pleasure in the death of one who dies (Ezekiel 18:32). He just wants people to follow his openly revealed standard, responding to his tremendous expression of love (John 3:16).
Violent men arrogantly and autocratically cling to their own opinions as absolute, though they have no authority; but God has proven his authority in Creation and Revelation (Psalm 19).
Violent men act selfishly; but God acts sacrificially. Knowing people are condemned by their own sins, God moved to provide reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21), and did so at great cost (Romans 5:8).
Yes, God expects reverence, awe and, in those senses, fear. The difference between the fear of God and the fear of evil men is quite simple. We do not know what to expect from evil men. We do not know how randomly their "judgments" will take place. We do know there will be no reason behind it. There will be no discernment of the deserving from the undeserving, the penitent from the stubborn. But, we know what to expect from God and how to avoid his wrath. There is no randomness to it. We can know that we know him and are prepared for eternity (1 John 2:3,4). We can also know if we are being disobedient and thus if we will be condemned when judgment occurs. Thus, although we know not when that great judgment day will occur, we can, indeed, hasten it, anticipate it and then welcome it as our salvation and not as our suffering (2 Peter 3:11,12; Titus 2:13).