Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Matthew 10:16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
When I was in my first call as an ordained pastor, members of the local clergy association were hesitant to invite me to be a part of their regular gatherings. They told me later that they did not want to “corrupt” a young, idealistic new minister with their cynical view of the world. What they did not discover until after I had been invited in was that I was not “wet behind the ears”, having worked for nearly a decade as a therapist with all manner of people and their problems. Although this was true, I was still ill-prepared for being a sheep in the midst of wolves.
Ministry is a dangerous profession, even in cultures where religious persecution is not apparent. It is within the practice of ministry where one can loose themselves, where one’s values can be co-opted, where a leader is expected to be kind, gentle, passive and defer to others. The religious leader might be expected to hear a confession and excuse the described destructive or abusive behavior. Relationships change as the religious leader learns more of the hidden details of a person’s life. Living in a “fishbowl”, the religious leader is subject to the expectations and the values of scores of people as every visible element of one’s life is open for criticism or comment. There is no word or gesture or lack thereof which is not interpreted in a particular way by people we encounter and are called to care for. Personal and family relationships are constantly being challenged by the time, attention, and demands of ministry. I know that I’m in this beyond my skill level and capability, and I consider myself very capable.
Without “fear” of the Lord, I’d be in some serious trouble.
Just what is this “fear”? The language I’d use is that it is a respect for the proper order of things. It is recognition that I am a creature of the creator of the universe and all that exists. It is recognition that God has gifted me with interests, talents, and capabilities … including the capability to learn along the way. It is recognition that I am fallible and sinful. It is a recognition that I can delude myself better than anyone else that my ideas or ways are right. It is also recognizing that my call has placed me in the unique and terrifying position of guiding people toward recognition of God in their lives.
The fear of the Lord has no room for arrogance. It invites me to learn at the feet of the master.
(My reflections in these Proverbial Leadership posts are not to be understood as from some authority or expert, but rather as one of God’s people reflecting on what these proverbs might mean for this time and place and for me. It is a work in progress. If you are able to benefit from these musings, I’ll celebrate with you. These kinds of things have been on my mind for quite some time, and I’m taking the opportunity now to put them in writing. You are invited to look over my shoulder.)