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Bible verses about Fight or Flight Response
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:4-5

Through distrust, Satan seduced Adam and Eve away from submitting to the most wonderful, lovable, giving, concerned, sensitive, and helpful Personality in all creation—God. Can you imagine that? The Devil convinced them that God could not be trusted!

Distrust is a powerful incentive whose fruit is divorce. Our first parents sinned and division began. The world has not been united since. When there is distrust, faith evaporates. Fear, anxiety, and depression escalate, and the motivation to be personally secure and free from the hassles of coping intensifies. The "fight or flight" mechanism kicks in.

John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust


 

Psalm 2:10-11

A hundred other verses say essentially the same thing: We must have the fear of God in us. Nevertheless, many persist in believing that, in Christianity, the fear of God has been replaced by love for God.

There is no doubt that God wants us to fear Him. Notice that Psalm 34:11 says that the fear of God is a quality that we must learn, indicating that we do not have this characteristic in us by nature. The fear of God, then, is different from the fears we normally have in life. Thus, it must be learned.

Fear is a powerful motivator. Our normal understanding of fear spans from being a mild apprehension or awareness of anxiety all the way to outright, bowel-moving terror. As an extreme, it creates the "fight or flight" response. Why, then, does a loving God want us to fear Him? Would He not rather want us to snuggle up to Him with no thought of fear?

Many people have that conception, but it is a mistaken one. We must not forget that God is not a man; He is God. He reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that He does not think like a man. Yes, He wants us to love Him, but even in that love the sense of fear should always be present.

Recall that Psalm 2:11 commands, "Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling." To a Christian, fearing and rejoicing seem to be an odd couple. Paul writes in Philippians 2:12 to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Ordinarily, we associate "trembling" with fear, of being frightened. What is there to fear and tremble about in taking salvation to its conclusion?

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 says, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." Within a Christian setting, we are much more comfortable with this command to love, yet notice verses 1-2:

Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the LORD your God to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.

Immediately preceding and following His command in verse 5 to love Him, He also affirms that we are to fear Him (see verses 2, 13). The sense of verses 1-2 is that this fear is produced as we keep His commandments, not before! Clearly, fear of Him and love for Him cannot be separated from our relationship with Him.

Isaiah 8:13 adds another interesting aspect. "The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." Surely, we might think that someone as close to God as Isaiah did not need to fear Him, but here God commands Isaiah to fear him. Why? Because the fear gained within the relationship with Him always motivates movement in the right, godly direction, regardless of the intensity of life's circumstances.

What about I John 4:17-18? Does it not contradict the assertion that our relationship with God should contain godly fear?

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 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 passage does not contradict in the least, once we understand the kind of fear the apostle John is writing about. The clue to this fear appears in verse 17 in the term "boldness." John is referring to being bold in spite of the circumstances we face from life in this world once we are converted. The love of God works in us to dispel the fear of disease, oppressions, persecution, and death, but it does not drive out the fear of God. If it did, John would be contradicting what the Bible says elsewhere about the necessity of continuing to fear God. Christianity has not replaced the fear of God with the love of God, as many wrongly believe. Instead, the two work hand in hand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sin, Christians, and the Fear of God


 

Proverbs 1:7

The biblical fear of God runs the gamut from a mild respect through a deep, abiding, and reverential awe to sheer terror—a terror that causes the skin to crawl, the hair to stand on end, the throat to release a scream, the bowels to move, or the body to faint or collapse, groveling on the ground in a vain attempt to disappear, as Isaiah did (Isaiah 6:5). Fear can be an extremely effective motivator. Many of us have seen, heard, or experienced something so fearsome that the "fight or flight" response kicked in. The terror moved us to take immediate steps to defend ourselves physically or seek protection by running from the danger.

However, fear can also be a two-edged sword. Though it undoubtedly motivates, it can also paralyze us into doing nothing but rolling ourselves into a fetal position. In relation to God, a most subtle and deceptive problem is that, because we cannot literally see Him, we do not feel that responding to Him is of immediate concern. In this way, fearing God is not like our reaction to a lion suddenly jumping out of the jungle and confronting us on the path.

The result, though, can be just as deadly! The major difference is timing. Because of God's patience, the end comes more slowly if our reaction is not correct and no repentance occurs. Nonetheless, our relationship with God may die because not having the proper fear invites apathy and procrastination. Our fear must have enough of an "edge" that we are motivated to act correctly—but not so much that we are paralyzed into inaction. That "edge" grows as true knowledge of Him increases.

Some may think that God does not require of us this level of fear. However, for "trembles" in Isaiah 66:2, the Septuagint uses a Greek word that means a reverential awe that has an "edge" to it. God will "look on" a person who has this kind of fear. Without the proper fear of God in us, there will be precious little reciprocation of His love shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5).

Romans 12:1 makes it clear that overcoming in this way of life requires sacrifice. We all know how costly sacrifice is sometimes. Our apprehension of making sacrifices required to submit to God's will stops us on occasions, motivating us to draw back from obeying. In this case, the problem is fearing the wrong thing! Sometimes, the degree of the fear of God we need comes close to sheer terror because we are often so difficult to convince!

However, what is necessary as a matter of course is an abiding reverential awe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part One): Fear


 

 




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