A God of Fear?
A God of Fear?
A few weeks ago I was giving my testimony for the Easter Sunday services at Church of the Highlands here in Birmingham. Three members from Highlands, including myself, had been invited to share our respective “God stories” with the church in a video that would be shown at all the services.
It was during my taping session that I became aware of the fact that for years (fifty-five of them if you’re counting), everything that I did in regards to my faith was, well, for the wrong reason.
Do you ever think about why you go to church? Or why you follow the Ten Commandments? Or why you ask God for His forgiveness?
In matters of faith, especially when it comes to your relationship with God, are you motivated by love for Him, or fear of Him?
Without mentioning a specific denomination (I don’t know that it matters), I’ll tell you that I grew up in a Christian family. I went to church every Sunday because my parents did. And I prayed to God because my parents did. The same can be said about receiving communion, and fasting, and confessing my sins to God.
What I’m saying is that my faith in God was based on what I’d seen, or what I’d learned in religion class, or on what I’d been told to do. I think it was the last one, the things that I’d been told to do, that motivated me more than anything.
Why? Well, as is so often the case when we’re told to do something as kids, there’s that dreaded “or else” attached to it. Come on, as a child how many times did you hear “You better clean up your room, or else you’re gonna be punished.” Or maybe “If you don’t pull those grades up, you’re gonna be grounded.” And then there was the classic “You do that again, and you’re gonna get a whipping.” You get what I’m trying to say, don’t you? I knew that if I did some things, or if I didn’t do other things, something bad was gonna happen. To me! You can relate, can’t you?
Sadly, when it came to God, I felt the same way.
Look, I was told that I had to go to “confession” when I was five years old; to tell God that I was sorry for what I’d done wrong. I HAD to go. No options. Besides, if I didn’t, God would know that I wasn’t sorry for what I’d done wrong. I’d better get in there and confess my sins. Or I’d never go to heaven.
At the tender age of five, what could I have done that was so wrong that God wouldn’t let me go to heaven? Nothing. But at five, I didn’t know that!
All too quickly forgotten was the promise of Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. It had been replaced by If you don’t tell God that you’re sorry, you can’t go to heaven. Well, if the elevator ain’t going up, it must be going down!
The Fear of God seed had been planted.
That seed germinated, and became a plant. Well, I guess that it was more a weed than anything else. And like most weeds, its roots ran deep.
That fear of God? It stayed with me through my childhood, my teen years, and most of my adult life.
Okay, I have to admit something here. Don’t know why I feel compelled to admit it to you. It’s just another piece of baggage that I feel it’s time to put down…
I quit going to confession as soon as I was old enough and had the freedom to quit going to confession. Oh, I still asked God for His forgiveness, but in my own way, and in my own words. I just didn’t believe that I had to go through someone else to get to God…
So anyway, it was fear, and not love, that kept me in front of God. Those dad-gum “or else” threats were still haunting me.
I’d better go to church, or else…
I’d better not sin, or else…
I’d better pray to God about this, or else…
I’d better fast during Lent, or else…
How sad it was that for all those years, I was looking at God through the eyes of a fearful man, rather than through those of a son looking to his father. Even sadder was the fact that, by my example, my own sons were also taught about the God of Fear.
Can you imagine trying to have an intimate relationship with someone based on fear? Couldn’t be a very good one, could it? Wouldn’t think that it would last very long, would you? Neither would I.
I tried to have a relationship with God, not because of what He might give me, but because of what He might take from me if I didn’t go to church, or pray, or fast, or live a life free of sin. The foundations of my faith were built on fear. It’s just that simple. It’s just that wrong.
Look, I’m gonna remind you that I’m no theologian; I can’t refer to something that I learned in the seminary. I don’t know the Bible that well; quite often I can’t point you to a specific Chapter and Verse to support what I want to say.
In this particular instance, I can only tell you what I believe in my heart. And because I believe it in my heart, I can only believe that it is true:
Our God is a God of love. Oh, those that don’t walk with Him, and those who would oppose Him, should fear Him indeed, for He is all-powerful. While Satan is a worthy adversary for us mortals, he is nothing, and would stand no chance against God. Our omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, God. For all that He is, there is nothing that God wouldn’t do for us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV
Our God is a God of love. The day that I made the decision to have a relationship with Him based on love rather than fear, an amazing thing happened. Replacing the fear of God in my mind with love for Him allowed my heart to open to receive the unfathomable, immeasurable, never-ceasing love that He has for me. Our God is an amazing God, and an incredible Father. He is a loving Father.
Our God is a God of love. If your relationship with God isn’t what you want it to be, you may want to question if your faith in Him is based on fear. If that’s the case, believe me: your relationship with Him will never be what it could be. You will never fully love Him, and you will never fully feel His love, until you change your way of thinking.
I want to close with one of my favorite verses from the Bible. Yeah, I said that I didn’t know the Bible that well. I didn’t say that I don’t know it at all…
However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Doesn’t say the first thing about fear.
God is good.