"Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, [the Church] increased in numbers." - Acts 9:31b
Scripture that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." In this case, the word "fear" can be taken to mean holy awe - a recognition of God's majesty, power and beauty. This sense of awe relativizes all of our human plans, revealing in the light of God's glory how much we depend upon the continual grace of God. The fear of the Lord compels us to do things that we would normally avoid, to do work that exposes us to hardship, embarrassment and suffering. Strangely enough, this holy fear also gives us unearthly courage. Knowing that God alone is to be feared, we are freed from our terror of the many other authorities that demand our ultimate loyalty.
Unlike fear of human rulers, the fear of God does not diminish us. On the contrary, living in the fear of the Lord empowers us to grow to our greatest potential. As the writer of Acts observed, the early Church lived in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. The holy awe that we experience as we stand before the Creator of the cosmos results not in the destruction of the self, but in transformation and fulfillment. When we truly experience who God is, we are compelled to lead lives of boldness, embracing the fear of God as the antidote to the many fears that the world seeks to impose on us.
has to do with punishment, but the fear of the God is grounded in unconditional love and reconciliation. When we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit, we discover that Christ's leadership is qualitatively different from that of the rulers of this world. As Paul writes in his epistle to the Romans, "all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God." Rather than becoming God's slaves, we become his children! "For you did not receive a Spirit of fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba!' Father, it is that very Spirit bearing witness that we are children of God..."
Knowing that we stand together before an infinitely powerful, majestically beautiful God, can we live together in the fear that casts out all fear? Knowing that we are children of the promise, submitting ourselves to God's loving care and guidance, will we embrace lives that cast aside all timidity and cringing before the twisted powers that govern our society? Living in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we will receive the courage to embody God's justice, mercy and healing power?