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What is the Fear of God?

I had the good fortune of hearing Atul Gawande speak at Forsyth Medical Center on Tuesday. He is a great writer. The Malcolm Gladwell of health related topics. I strongly recommend his latest book Being Mortal.

On Tuesday, he mentioned another book, written by a Harvard professor in 1908 – a man by the name of Josiah Royce. A philosopher, Royce, in his book pondered why men and women failed to feel satisfied simply by having their basic needs met – food, shelter, health – great question – if you’re like me, getting my basic needs met doesn’t feel very satisfying – it feels like survival – not life.

Well, Royce believed that to experience true well being we needed to be attached to something greater. We need to be living for something greater than our selves.

He called that thing one’s Loyalty.

Have you met someone who was fiercely loyal? I have.

When a young man or woman enlists in the armed forces, they must take the Oath of Enlistment:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

I think that’s getting close to what the “fear of God” means. It’s being fiercely loyal – so loyal you will honor and respect and uphold that thing even if it costs you your life.

It’s pledging your allegiance to something greater – like an Armed Serviceman chooses to place his or her allegiance to their country – to literally surrender their life to the call of duty – that is what God is calling his followers to do.

Remember, the Israelites had no country. They had fled Egypt. They were wandering in the desert. God basically says – instead of pledging your allegiance to a place – pledge your allegiance to me – fear Me – I am your country.

He still is.

It’s called the Kingdom of God.

The rules God gave us were meant to help us be good citizens in that Kingdom – to reflect the nature of the King we serve – to act as the rightful heirs he meant us to be.

Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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