Maximus the Confessor is helping me understand the fear of the Lord better these days. I have found it a bit hard to understand how fear can be sinful, we should fear God, and yet love casts out all fear. The Bible speaks in different ways about fear.
First, we can fear in two ways, Maximus argues. We can fear in the natural way to preserve our existence. So we might fear being too thirsty since we need water to live; or we might fear heights since we know that falling might kill us. There is no sin in this fear. God made us to have this fear.
The second way of fear, Maximus explains, is the irrational fear that leads to dread. If Jesus rose from the dead, in the end, everything will be okay. Yet we might irrationally fear the loss of a job opportunity or the approval of someone else or the the criticism of someone else. This dread flows from sinful and irrational desires. This is the sinful kind of fear.
So when John says that perfect love casts out all fear, he must mean the second kind of fear. I doubt John meant the species of fear that says we should walk around a deadly poisonous snake. We might call this fear the power of self-preservation.
Now, the Fear of the Lord must of a category that differs in part. And yet: the fear of the Lord—often assumed to mean awe—could easily mean the fear of the Lord’s judgment due to our irrational dread. If so, then this indeed is the BEGINNING of Wisdom. And love would be its end. Since this type of fear should recede, the more we come to realize the love of God in Christ for us.
This is something I am trying to understand. So please don’t take this little ramble as anything like a final thought. But maybe you could share with me how you have thought about these things? At least for me, I love to share what I learn; and I love to share what warms my heart in love for Jesus.