Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.Psalm 34:11
When our oldest was five I overheard her tell a friend, “Don’t touch the bush, my daddy is mean.” Years later my father-in-law heard our youngest say, “Please don’t say you’re bored, my mom will put us to work.” Both of these scenarios make the top 100 list when we’re sharing memories.
My husband and I set the bar high for our girls. From a very young age, they knew the rules and understood our expectations. Other parents may have thought us as mean as our five-year-old daughter; however, despite our stringent parenting style, I believe they always knew they were loved. I’m also confident the balance between a healthy fear of being disciplined and unconditional love helped them understand the fear of the Lord.
I often use my own childhood as I explain this difficult concept. My parents loved me, and even when I didn’t feel it, deep down I knew it. When I found myself grounded or scolded, somewhere within me I knew I was loved. Fear of punishment, and later fear of disappointing them, often kept me from going too far off the path. It’s the kind of fear that closely resembles respect.
So many think our Heavenly Father wants us to cringe before Him, afraid of the punishment He’ll dole out. Yet the Bible tells us He is love. Romans says He left many sins go unpunished. The merciful Creator wrote the Book on grace and forgiveness. When the Psalmist tells us to teach children the fear of the Lord, I believe he meant the same kind of fear I had for my parents and my children had for me.
It must be a strange notion for those raised by abusive parents or parents who never corrected unacceptable behavior. How can a child understand respectful fear when he’s been taught to cower or trained that love never corrects?
Parents can teach the fear of the Lord better than anyone else. Disciplining out of love demonstrates the Father’s heart. Helping our children learn to respect others will allow them to understand respectful fear of their Creator. God gave us the perfect parenting example, and when we follow it we teach our children what it truly means to fear the Lord.