President Obama was so close, and yet somehow so far when he discussed the relationship of fear and faith at an Easter prayer breakfast this morning. Scripture does indeed, as he intimates, often tell us not the fear our enemy. Likewise scripture often tells us that compassion is a hallmark of Christian character. But those scriptural encouragements come in some very deep context that the president’s comments ignore altogether.
We do not fear our enemy because we fear God, who is bigger and more powerful than any enemy we can face on this earth. Scripture teaches this over and over. Basketball coaching legend Bob Knight used to say he wanted his players more afraid of him than the other team – that is what we are talking about here. I don’t fear the enemy because God has got my back, but I sure as heck better fear God or else I do not really have a clue as to who God genuinely is. As the Psalms say:
Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
It is said more bluntly in other places in scripture, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
Now think about that for a minute. Wisdom comes from fear (of God) and wisdom is good judgement. If compassion is indeed God’s desire in us, then one would think good judgement would lead us to be compassionate. So then the idea is not to have “no fear,” but to have fear in the right place. Fear is not the antithesis of faith, it is instead inseparably part of it.
The good judgement that comes from the wisdom that comes from the fear of the Lord would be necessarily cautious. Compassion is not blind acceptance, nor is love. Conversely, exercising caution when being compassionate or giving love is wise. Another way to say this is to say that caution is not fear. The simple definition of caution is “care taken to avoid danger or risk.” That sounds pretty wise to me. Caution and compassion need not be mutually exclusive.
When I hear statements like the ones we have heard form the president since the most recent terror attacks, I get the feeling the president has the precepts, but not the wisdom. If that is true, one could surmise that he does not fear the Lord, at least not adequately.
Therefore Mr President, who has the fear problem?