[Jesus said,] “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Luke 12: 4-9 (NIV)

Oh, how easy it is for me to become overconcerned about the opinion of others. To fear human power rather than trust in the security of God’s love for me. Especially if I sense shame or physical danger. As I watch the war in Ukraine progress and see the courage of people there, particularly President Zelensyyy, I’m amazed. I can think of no other person who is so unafraid (as Jesus told his followers to be) of those who kill the body. He demonstrates courage combined with compassion more than most world leaders have done for generations.

Jesus instructed his disciples to not be afraid of humankind; then, he told them who to fear. Maybe it sounds like a double message. How can we both love and fear God? And what does it mean to fear God? We can only fear and love God if we understand his nature. Jesus, God in human form, showed us God’s nature. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is described as being “full of grace and truth”. (John 1:14)

He clearly demonstrated what it means to fear God (humbling himself and respecting the authority of our Father in heaven) and to love God (keeping his commandments of love in all relationships).

We, humans, tend to emphasize grace or truth to the neglect of the other. Our knowledge of both is incomplete. We make ourselves the authority of truth and judge others according to our standards. By embracing truth without grace, we become proud and legalistic. God, alone, who is all-knowing can define truth with accuracy.

When we de-emphasize truth or define it according to our own desires and focus on grace, we also mess up. This causes us to overlook and downplay the presence of dysfunction (sin) in all of us. In describing the human heart, Jesus said, “From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander”. It’s because of this that we need grace. God’s desire for us is forgiveness and freedom from sin and Jesus made this possible.

One of the most beautiful descriptions of truth combined with grace is this: “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ”. (2 Corinthians 5: 21 NLT)

In the words of that famous hymn, “Amazing Grace”, it was grace that taught my heart to fear [God]. By looking at Jesus’ life, I saw my dysfunction. “And grace my fear relieved”. By looking at Jesus’s death, I saw God’s compassionate grace. My love for him is a response to his love for me.

Lord, you have a panoramic view of every
ocean, valley, and mountain peak.

Yet, you count each hair upon my head and
See the sparrows nest in yonder tree.

Such knowledge I shall never comprehend,
Greater still the mystery of your love for me.

You choose to die upon a cross!
You choose to save a fallen one like me.

Sparrows are such common birds. I prefer more colorful cardinals, goldfinch, and dainty hummingbirds. God does not overlook sparrows. That tells me he cares about common people. Those who go unnoticed. He sees the details of their body, knows the number of hairs on their head. If God values sparrows how much more he values humans like you and me. 

Sparrows fall. So do we do we humans. Sparrows fight with one another for the seeds on my deck. Sadly, we humans do too. In small ways,  like children over the largest piece of candy. In disastrous ways. Like war. How thankful I am for God's provision of grace!

6 Responses

  1. Thank you, Jane. This is a personal struggle for me, as well. If I do not fear the right person, I’ll be led down the wrong way. I need to remember that Jesus is loving and kind. He wants to forgive my sin and heal me. I can always go to Him and He gives me life. Thanks for this reminder!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Sandy. I appreciate your honest vulnerability, as well as your expressions of faith and love for Jesus.

  2. Jane, this is just packed with truth, and a clear insight into what the Bible says about properly directed fear. Praise God for his truth and grace! God bless you!

    1. Thank you, Jean. As I write, the Spirit teaches me and I gain understanding. So grateful for your support and encouragement.

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