Many Christians tend to believe that there should be a balance between love and fear when it comes to our relationship with God. They also believe that their children should have a “healthy fear” of them. Punitive parents tend to confuse fear with respect.
Is it truly possible to have a balance between fear/terror, love, and trust? How can we truly trust someone that we are afraid of?
Let’s look at the definitions of fear/terror, love, respect, and trust.
Dictionary.com defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Terror is defined as “intense, sharp, overmastering fear.”
Dictionary.com defines trust as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.”
Dictionary.com defined respect as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability; to hold in esteem or honor.”
Finally, dictionary.com defines love as “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person: a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.”
As we can clearly see, fear, trust, love, and respect have absolutely nothing to do with each other. What I find even more interesting is that the definition for fear contains the words “evil” and “pain” whereas trust, love, and respect do not.
This makes sense because fear is not from God as 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
It makes me wonder why so many Christians believe that fear and respect are one and the same. They’ll claim that their children “respect” them when, in reality, it’s fear because children know that they’ll get punished for not obeying. Fear makes children behave out of self-preservation, not because they want to please us or trust us.
Respect and trust allows children to cooperate with us because they love, trust, and respect us. Often times these children will surprise us by spontaneously doing something nice for us because they find pleasure in helping us. They know we respect them and always have their best interests at heart. They also know that we won’t intentionally hurt them when they displease us.
While we can love a parent that we don’t trust or respect, it’s a weird love. My dad physically, emotionally, and verbally abused me throughout my childhood. Yes, I loved him, but I was often afraid to be with him. I felt like I had to be a certain way in order not to be hurt by him. I didn’t look forward to seeing him. But, because he was my dad, I did love him. He died in 2003 and I still struggle because I can’t remember him as a good guy.
My mom, on the other hand, is someone I can look forward to being with when we visit. I love, trust, and respect her. Sure, we’ve had our issues but I’m not (never was) afraid of her.
The same goes for my husband and friends. Then there’s God. I am not afraid of God. I know He will never hurt me. I struggle sometimes with trusting Him due to how I was raised and my brain wiring due to being abused. If I was “terrified” of God, I could not have a personal relationship with Him.
I do NOT believe there can be a “healthy balance” between love and terror when it comes to our relationships with God. That just isn’t possible. How can we totally trust and rely on Him if we are terrified of Him in some way?
Yes, the Bible does tell us to fear God. Yirat Adonai is Hebrew for the fear of the LORD. Terror, being scared, being afraid of God is not what this Hebrew term means. Rather, to “fear God” means to be reverent, in awe, and worship Him. It also means to take Him at His Word. God does not want us to be afraid of Him. In fact, over & over in the Bible God tells His people NOT to be afraid of Him.
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:15-18).
Even Christ said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (John 14:27-28).
Again, I must ask if we are to be scared or afraid of our loving, merciful God, then what kind of personal relationship is that with Him? I run AWAY from things and people I’m afraid of, and yet, God wants us to run TO Him!
May we, as Christians and as parents, let go of this twisted church doctrine that claims that fear/terror must be a part of our relationships with God and our children. That is a lie from satan who wants to do everything in his power to hinder love, trust, and respect in our relationships with God and our children. This lie may even prevent some from coming to know Christ’s amazing saving grace!