In the Age of Tolerance, whatever happened to reverence?
In its most basic form, reverence connotes both a sense of terror as well as a sense of awe and worship. Reverence describes a feeling or attitude of deep respect, marked with wonder and veneration. Veneration is manifested through holding someone in high esteem or admiring deference and is expressed through ritual and devotion.
In our 21st century era of tolerance, reverence is word seemingly forgotten. We simply don’t seem to revere much these days. In fact, it often seems like we’re in the midst of a race to see who can be the most irreverent among us. Irreverence is celebrated while reverence is tossed to the curb like an unwanted dog or discarded like an unplanned child. We live in a time where repulsiveness is honored and receives the best seat at the table.
Reverence is an important word to those of us who profess to live a life of faith. In biblical terms, reverence refers to our having the appropriate sense of awe, respect, and wonder inspired through our having encountered the character and activity of a very real and living God. We are inspired to express reverence when we meditate upon the things God has done, is doing and will do, both in our individual lives and throughout the lifetime of the Earth we currently call home.
Reverence for God results in His showering favor on individual believers, their families and the faith community to which they belong. When we show God the correct fear, awe and worship, He blesses us (Psalm 128:1, Ecclesiastes 8:12) Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10).
Reverence for the Lord remedies other fears, because we recognize that when we trust in God we don’t have to be afraid of worldly, or fleshly, things. Indeed, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
We express our proper attitude of respect and wonder to God through our actions, as well as through our words and in our worship. When we revere God, we obey Him—not out of duty, but out of the love grown out of our respect of Him.
When we have the right attitude of reverence for God we have better relationships with other believers and demonstrate respect for others. It’s one thing to tolerate someone who is different than you; it’s another thing to actually show them respect. When I tolerate something, I simply put up with it. To actually respect your differing views requires more ability than I tend to have naturally. Indeed, respect is something that comes from above, outside of the realm of natural responses. Tolerance is cheap; Respect is divine.
We are desensitized to the concept of reverence. We hear people clamor for it, yet not act in a way deserving of it. Reverence isn’t something you are owed. Arguably, the Lord alone is worthy of our fear, admiration, and worship. As believers, we treat one another with respect and dignity because it is through our words and deeds that we glorify God.