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This article originally appeared as one of Ruth Graham's By the Way columns in the March 4, 1983 issue of Christianity Today.

The shot through the rattlesnake's head had all but demolished it. The rattler was still twisting on the driveway as the family gathered around to see the latest snake kill. One of the dogs eased forward to finish it off, and the snake struck again. The dog jumped back.

Then one of the grandchildren reached out to touch it. Bill grabbed him and held him back, explaining how deadly even a dead snake can be. The young grandson, totally without fear, was determined to grab its tail. Again the mangled head struck out. The boy jumped back, getting the message. Rattlesnakes and copperheads, the only two poisonous snakes in our region, are to be feared.

"Education," wrote Angelo Patri, "consists in being afraid of the right things."

We taught our children to be careful with matches and to be respectful of open fire; fear of house fires and forest fires prompts sensible precautions. We also taught the children never to run into the street without first carefully looking both ways; a proper fear of cars is also legitimate—as are accepting rides from strangers, using unprescribed drugs, not wearing helmets when riding motorcycles, breaking the law, and dishonoring one's parents or one's country.

There is one grand, noble fear we are taught from Genesis to Revelation. It is "the fear of the Lord." This is more than "being scared of" though there is a hit of that in it, too. It is "a reverential trust," not only a fear of offending, but a loving to the point one would not want to offend.

"In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge" (Prov. 14:26).

"The fear of the ...

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Afraid of the Right Things
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June 2007

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