“Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.”
I remember a bully on the school bus when I was a kid. He used to do mean things to others—picking on them, humiliating them, and generally making life miserable on the bus ride home. Everyone hated getting on the bus because of him. What it boiled down to was that we were all afraid of what he might do or whom he and his friends might pick on that day. We lived in constant fear under his “rule.”
Lots of people use fear to get other people to do what they want. From bullies on the bus to leaders of countries—fear can be a terrific and horrific motivator.
When God was teaching the people of Israel how to get along with each other, he made sure to tell them not to rule ruthlessly over each other. Ruthless rule uses fear to motivate and control. That kind of rule robs everyone of their dignity and of the image of God in them. God didn’t want his people to be treated that way or to treat others that way. Ruling by fear would not be allowed in God’s kingdom.
When we use fear to control others, we do exactly what God doesn’t want us to do. He wants us to live in peace with each other. And when we are in charge of others, God wants us to treat them with love and respect. Ruthlessly ruling with fear has no place in our interactions with others.
Ruler God, thank you for loving us. Help us to treat others with the same love you have for us. If we are mistreating others, please change our hearts. Amen.