by Mark Altrogge
What does it mean to fear God? And is the fear of the Lord a good or bad thing?
It depends what you mean. Depending on your background, the fear of the Lord can sound incredibly distasteful. If you grew up in a church that portrayed God as always waiting to strike you down for the slightest fault, then fearing God probably sounds pretty terrible.
In my pre-Christian, Roman Catholic days, my fear of the Lord (at least this is what I grew up believing) was essentially a fear of going to hell. I was taught that if I missed Mass on Sunday that was a mortal sin that needed to be confessed if I were to escape hell. As you can imagine, I feared God, but it wasn’t a good or healthy fear. I had no assurance of salvation.
I had no sense that God loved me. I felt like I could never please him, that he was always unhappy with me and waiting to punish me. I carried that unhealthy fear of the Lord into my early days as a Christian. If you asked me, “What does it mean to fear God?”, I couldn’t have given you a good answer.