What Does It Mean to Fear God?

Listening to the Ask N. T. Wright Anything podcast I heard a question that I have often tried to answer as a pastor. That question is “What does it mean to fear God?” My answers haven’t been wrong, but I like N.T Wright’s answer better, so I’m going to share it here. Please note that this has a very off-the-cuff, conversational tone because I transcribed it from the Podcast. Here’s Wright’s answer: 

“Our English word fear can slide too and fro … there is a fear that is a panicky fear … and some people think that’s what fearing God is supposed to mean. And then they say how can that co-exist with love. And the answer is no. In the Hebrew, which the Greek is struggling to retain there, [fear] means reverence, [fear] means awe. It’s the kind of awe that you feel when you walk into one of the most great, lovely buildings like a huge cathedral and you have the sense of ‘I ought to mind my p’s and q’s when I’m in here.’ And yet it’s beautiful, you want to be there, and yet you have a sense that you need to talk in hushed tones and be careful what you do because this place matters. … that’s the kind of sense I think fear means, that when we think of being in God’s presence, wow, we need to take this very seriously.” — N. T. Wright [1]

[1] N. T. Wright, “Ask NT Wright Anything #38: Lockdown Livestream,” Premier Christian Radio, accessed August 28, 2020, https://bit.ly/32BXPJ9.