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Life experience is so individual as to be a major reason humans have such a difficult time relating to unfamiliar situations and people.
Some embrace this uncertainty. Others fear differences to the extent that they become enraged by it.
So what happens? The fearful cling to what they know and reject any effort to look beyond what they have always known. “New” is judged threatening and undoubtedly wrong.
Those who are comfortable learning or unlearning some of their previous ideas about the meaning and purpose of life have a tendency to over estimate the value of that which seems new. They will quickly underestimate and discard traditional values. Either group is easily misled into serious trouble.
We all fit somewhere in that wide spectrum. The marketing of products and ideas is based on how successfully these differences are manipulated in producing messages that will appeal to a targeted number of people. Personality is a major weapon in selling or destroying an idea or a product.
So, how do we recognize the false from the true?
“Fear not,” the Lord says, which is a call to trust fully that God holds our ultimate fate within his care as he calls us to obedience. His Holy Spirit strengthens us in our weakness and protects us in our strength as we contend with Evil.
Yet, as followers of God, we are to truly “fear or avoid” even the appearance of evil.
And what about having “the fear of the Lord,” such as “I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” as in Psalms 34: 11?
This “fear of the Lord” is different — an element of love and worship that leads us into more complete relationship with God, making us more open to seeking to please God in our awareness of his love and care.
If that is too difficult to get our minds around, think about how we try to please the people we love, going along on a hike when we had rather be curled up on the sofa for a nap or reading a good book.
Or maybe we sit uncomplainingly through a baseball game at a stadium when we had much rather be in a movie theater or concert hall.
We make concessions to one another out of love, not because we are afraid, but because we have an unselfish desire to please someone whose entertainment choices may be different. But it must not be one-sided, if a relationship is to thrive healthily.
This human type of respect for our loved ones seems to come naturally. And when it doesn't because our selfishness reigns over all else in a relationship, we have broken hearts and homes.
One of the greatest gifts in following God's basic instructions, is that God takes our small sacrifices and turns them into blessings we would have thought impossible.
Until we heal the distance created by selfishness, we will not be effective in addressing the basic ills of our families, communities and nation. The answers to the strife that is so worrisome today is rife with false promises held out by those intent on elevating themselves through evil words and actions.
It is our relationship to God, who teaches us to uphold righteousness and recognize and reject evil that will make the difference.
“Fear God,” when understood in its totality is the demonstration of love through the crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ, that demonstrates divine love triumphs over evil.
Christian theology teaches the war is won with the Resurrection, celebrated at Easter and weekly in church worship services until God decides to close the open door on Eternity.
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety.” (Proverbs 29: 24 NLT)
Beth Pratt retired after 25 years as the religion editor for the Avalanche-Journal.
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