Free to love God
In the King James Version as well as other translations of the Bible, the word fear is often used to describe how worshipers should show their reverence for God. For instance, this command seems clear: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12). People who are familiar with the King James Bible become accustomed to such uses of the word fear as referring to respect, honor, awe, and love when they read passages like this.
Today, of course, most of us think of fear as feeling afraid. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Always begin your treatment by allaying the fear of patients.… If you succeed in wholly removing the fear, your patient is healed” (pp. 411–412).
I had an experience that has opened my eyes to the importance of removing that kind of fear. When I felt severe pain in one of my knees while running recently, I wasn’t really afraid; I was just in pain. And I was annoyed and upset, because this was a chronic problem. As I continued to run, I prayed, and my prayers led me to consider the perfect nature of God and to worship Him. I didn’t need to spend any time balancing that worship with consideration of the physical senses, but to just wholeheartedly and unreservedly give God my love and attention. The change was immediate. When I fully committed to complete worship of and love for God as I ran, the pain completely vanished, and I went on to finish my run with great joy. And I’m grateful that the pain, which had been an unwelcome but constant companion during or after my runs for several years, has not been an issue in any runs since then; I was healed.
The Bible commands us to fear—to worship and be in awe of—God alone.
As I’ve been considering that experience, I’ve been struck by that biblical concept of fear as worship. I realized that, in this sense, while I hadn’t been afraid during that experience, I had certainly been “fearing”—afraid of—the report of the physical senses, and in the proportion that I was doing this, I was not “fearing” God in the way the Bible commands us to fear—to worship and be in awe of—God alone.
Ah! So in reconsidering Mrs. Eddy’s directive to begin treatment by allaying patients’ fear, I realized that doesn’t mean we are diagnosing a problem or accusing ourselves or the patient of being afraid. Rather, we are actually clarifying for ourselves and others our innate right to choose where our thoughts rest: Do they rest on the reports of the material senses, or on the spiritual reports of divine Love, God?
The material senses provide us with many reports throughout the day, and we may tend to make assessments of how we’re doing based on those reports. But aren’t those material senses actually diverting our attention and worship away from acknowledging God as our sole provider of everything we need to know? We don’t have to accept the problems reported by the material senses as real and then try to fix them. Instead, we can joyfully turn all our worship and attention directly to God, Spirit, and see more clearly how Spirit made and maintains its creation.
In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy answers the question, “What is the scientific statement of being?” (p. 468). Something I love about this is that it’s not the scientific statement of becoming! It’s not a guide to how to “get better.” It’s a statement of what is. As part of the answer to this question, Mrs. Eddy wrote, “All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all.” To me, this statement directly relates to the First Commandment in the Bible, which states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The First Commandment commands us to have only one God—to worship, love, trust Spirit alone. There is no other real power.
We can joyfully turn all our worship and attention directly to God and see more clearly how Spirit made and maintains its creation.
But what about those other “powers” that seem to be? Are we supposed to ignore the material senses? In the experience with my knee, it was impossible to ignore the pain. Likewise, to ask someone involved in any kind of physically or emotionally painful situation to just ignore it would be unkind and unloving, which are not qualities that evoke healing. But there’s a difference between ignoring a problem and exercising your right to intentionally, actively, and unreservedly choose where your attention—your worship—will be placed. We have the right to experience the fruit of this wonderful promise implied throughout the Bible and clarified here by Mrs. Eddy: “Man is free born: he is neither the slave of sense, nor a silly ambler to the so-called pleasures and pains of self-conscious matter. Man is God’s image and likeness; whatever is possible to God, is possible to man as God’s reflection” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 183).
We are not enslaved by the reports of fearfulness, pain, or being tempted to sin. Yes, our daily lives seem quite filled with reports that this is exactly how we all are. But the tenor of the closing words of the book of Jude in the New Testament gives us the promise and the present fulfillment of God’s love for us, and how to experience that love more fully: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever” (1:24, 25).
By turning our attention to God—to the one who keeps us and presents us in His radiant glory and light—we find our freedom from influences unlike God. We are free to “fear”—to truly love—God. And God always loves us!