Louis Palme / Dec 24, 2011

God understands that people would be fearful of a divine act that they did not understand.  He sent angels to calm those involved.  When the Lord gave 80-some-year-old Abraham the news he would have his own son, He said, “Do not be afraid.” (Genesis 15:1 and Surah 15:53).  When the angel told the Virgin Mary she would bear Jesus the Messiah, the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary.” (Luke 1:30)  And when Jesus was born, the angel announced, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all people.”  (Luke 2:10 and Surah 3:45)

In English there are two senses of the word fear – anxiety or reverence.   While both kinds of fear can be relieved – as in “Fear not’ ---,  neither can be commanded.  Our consciousness generates its own reaction to phenomena.   A child might be terrified of a dog, or just as easily he might want to hug it.  If a parent is fearful of dogs,  that fear may be communicated to the child, but the child’s fear is self-generated.

The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)  This “fear” is in the sense of reverence.  If it were meant as fright or anxiety, how would it lead to wisdom?   Clearly, God wants us to have reverence for Him, not fright.  God wants us to understand him and all of his divine acts with reverence, not fear.  In the Bible, we are told, “Don’t be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:17) 

Unfortunately, the Quran uses fear mostly in the sense of fright or anxiety.   The word fear and its derivatives are used over 150 times.  Example: “Those only are believers whose hearts become full of fear when God is mentioned.” (Surah 8:2)  The only use of the word revere applies to Muhammad, not God.  (See Surah 48:9) 

The “good news” that was announced by the angels on Christmas is that God loves us unconditionally. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. . . . There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”  (I John 4:16-18)   Muslims, too, want to lose their fear and turn it into love.  Their prayer after reciting the Quran is, “O God, change my fear in my grave into love!”   Wouldn’t it be much better to have that fear turned into love long before reaching the grave?

Merry Christmas!

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