Fear and Love: Filial Vs Servile Fear

"Your fear rules over my thoughts night and day,
And my love is incomplete till fear leads the way..."

Love involves the element of fear. But, it is not the fear of being hurt; it is the fear of offending the one we love.

When the Bible commands us to fear God, it does have the two aspects of fear in mind:
1. Fear that is attached to the love of God (Deut.10:12; cf. 2Cor.7:11,15). This is what is usually referred to as filial fear. It is also reverential.
2. Fear that is attached to the justice of God, especially with regard to punishment (Deut 4:23,24; Heb.12:28,29). This may be referred to as servile fear

The Bible never encourages servile fear, which involves servitude in order to avoid displeasure of God. (Rom.8:15; 2Tim.1:7; 1Jn.4:18).

A man who loves God has filial and reverential fear for God and keeps away from evil because evil offends God (Prov.8:13).
A man who only keeps away from evil to avoid punishment will resort to evil when he begins to believe that the danger isn't there (Rom.6:1,2; 2:4; Exo.8:15).

1 John 4:18 tells us that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."

This refers to servile fear. It involves torment. It does not edify because it doesn't transform a person inside out. It doesn't perfect love. However, servile fear at least works as a negative deterrent.

Filial love, however, is a positive deterrent of evil.

We must remember that servile fear anywhere (whether at home, at office, or at school) is not going to build healthy relationships. It is tyrannical. But, where love is not lighthearted but is given depth by the seriousness of filial fear (and filial fear does have intense depth, for it affects the depths of one's consciousness of self in juxtaposition with the other), then, love becomes self-giving.

A husband who loves his wife and doesn't say things or do things that may offend and hurt her has filial fear. A child who obeys his parents, even when they are not around or may not find out what he has been doing, honors his parents through filial fear, because he knows that even if they didn't find out what he had been doing, the prohibited thing is hurtful to his parents, and because he loves them, he cannot bear to do the hurtful thing. From both these examples, we realize that true love involves fear and reverence.

Filial fear is not fear of being hurt by God. God cannot hurt us, for God is Love (1Jn.4:8). It is we who hurt ourselves when we try to fight against the ground of our being, and this grieves God (Eze.33:11).

Servile fear is not fear of grieving God; it is the fear of displeasing God and being hurt by His displeasure. It is servile, tyrannical, and legalistic. It involves bondage (Rom.8:15). It does not belong to perfect love; for perfect love casts away all fears.

Filial fear is clean and pure (Psa.19:9). It purifies the soul (Pro.16:6)