When one of our children was in grade 3, she wrote this little essay about a lion king. He was a fierce and fearsome beast who was king of the jungle. The other animals cowered in his presence. They were horribly scared of him. They obeyed him out of fear.
Then something life-changing happened to the lion. (For the life of me, I forgot this part of the story!) But the central thing was — the lion changed. He became kind-hearted. A strong but gentle lion.
At first, the other animals couldn’t believe it! So they were still scared of the lion. But as time went by, they realized that the lion had, indeed, changed. For real.
So the animals started to trust him. Appreciate him. Eventually the impossible happened: the animals obeyed the lion not because they feared him but because they loved him.
This story was written by our Grade 3 daughter. It had a happy ending.
How uncanny that in a leadership conference that my husband and I attended, one of our speakers shared with us the same powerful leadership principle: it is far, far better for people to obey us out of love than out of fear.
Sometimes children have insights that we, adults, take decades to discover.
Think of the people you fear. And the things you do for them — out of fear. Do you do things for them that are morally wrong? Unethical? Do you do things for them that you’d be ashamed of, if people knew? Do you sacrifice your principles, allow some people to mistreat you — because you’re scared to cross them?
Do you NOT do the right thing because you’re so scared you’ll be demoted, ostracized, lose position and favor?
Are you scared of doing the right thing because if your boss finds out, you’ll be left out in the cold, kicked out of the magic circle?
Is pleasing someone — your boss, your client, your husband/wife, your coach, your teacher, etc — more important to you than pleasing God?
The Bible says we should fear God, not man. Yet many of us fear man more than we fear God because He doesn’t zap us immediately after we commit a sin.
Many of us are more obsessed with pleasing man than pleasing God because we’re terrified of the instant consequences; losing the “good things” that we have.
It’s a lifestyle choice. It’s a choice that we must make way before a crisis presents itself.
There are times when I know that if I choose to obey God, I will be ostracized. Ranted at. Lose favor. Lose certain perks. There are times I know that if I bring up something that’ll rock the boat, I’ll earn the ire of some people around me. But thank goodness, that has not stopped me from speaking up when I have to. Or doing the things I have to.
The result is — I sleep well at night. In front of God, I have a clear conscience. I’d rather be HIS slave than someone else’s.
When I obey God, it’s because I love Him and I fear Him. It’s a delicate balance. But both elements are important.
The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If we want to spare ourselves from suffering the horrendous consequences of our wrong choices, it’s wise to fear God.
At the same time the Bible says, “God is love.” He is all-loving, all-good. That means I can completely trust Him not to do anything evil, unjust, or unmerciful to me.
He is unpredictable, yes. One should not expect a life of pure happiness and zero trials just because one obeys Him.
But one can expect the best outcomes from Him, no matter what.
That’s why this is one of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis:
“We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
Still. Obeying God is way better because the BEST results are guaranteed in the end. Rather than obey man (even when they’re wrong) — and suffer the consequences in the end.