“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” 2 Cor. 5:11
What is the fear of the Lord? That is a question that is larger than can be addressed in a blog post, but I would like to examine one characteristic of fear that may help us experience more of the fear of the Lord (a good thing).
Fear Feature: We tend to focus on and look for what we fear. If someone has a fear of snakes and they walk in the woods, they are looking fervently for snakes. If someone fears rejection, they will listen in every conversation for a negative comment, gesture, or omitted compliment (often hearing one whether it was there or not). If someone fears failure, then each moment is braced against it, asking for some skill or knowledge they do not have (often being paralyzed from doing things they are perfectly capable of doing).
Living in the fear of the Lord then, means to live with a constant awareness of God. What is He doing? What is His will for this situation? How can I express His character in this relationship? How could I please Him in this moment? In this regard, we might say that the opposite of the fear of the Lord is casualness/forgetfulness towards God.
In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul draws a connection between someone’s fear of the Lord and their level of persuasiveness. As we will see in just a moment, Paul was not trying to create the latest, greatest sales technique. Paul was merely putting a reality into words.
The fear of the Lord is the only fear that is not self-centered. All other fears are necessarily self-centered because their ultimate goal is self-preservation. The fear of the Lord begins with denying ourselves and dying to our desires (Luke 9:23-24).
This influences our ability to be persuasive in three ways:
- People are more apt to listen to someone who is not out for what they can gain in a situation. Paul had modeled this in his early preaching in Corinth (1 Cor 9:9-12). He would not allow the Corinthians to give him money for his ministry so that they would know of the sincerity of his message. One good question for measuring trust is, “How much does this person fear God?”
- We are more able to interpret a situation correctly when the lenses of self are not distorting our motives. We tend to see what we fear/trust. If we fear/trust money, we see a profit margin. If we fear/trust acceptance, we see rejection. If we fear/trust power, we see opportunities to get ahead. When we actively fear/trust God, we see things as they really are (rather than through the distortion of our fears). When we do not see things accurately people are confused and turned off by the sense that our words are “off.”
- Finally, when we fear the Lord we do not require a certain response from the other person as personal validation. Their acceptance or rejection of our message (i.e., the Gospel, a biblical way to resolve a particular conflict, a character quality we ask of our children, etc…) is not personal acceptance or rejection. We can then model a kind of social freedom that is sorely lacking in our insecure culture that hyper-personalizes differences.