Love and Fear
I wonder what it was that first compelled you to become a Christian? Perhaps it was discovering how much God loves you or seeing people you loved and respected faithfully following Jesus. There are countless ‘coming to faith’ stories, each unique to the individual but many share similar threads.
One of the most common threads is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of eternity, fear of heaven and hell, fear of God. Fear is a powerful motivator. I want to say from the outset - I’m not here to shame you if fear was a motivating factor in your coming to faith story. As matter of fact in one of the Bibles most well-known proverbs we find these words “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”.
As we search for meaning and understanding it’s not unusual to experience the fear of what might happen in a future we can’t know or understand. Often this will drive us to look for answers in God. Fear of the Lord can be the beginning of wisdom but it doesn’t need to be the end.
To know God is to know God is love. John, the disciple of Jesus, puts it like this… God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. Love is the central point in knowing God and following him. Our initial entry point to a relationship with God may be driven by our fear of what we do not know or understand; but John’s confidence is that as we discover who God is, we will find that His very nature is love. Love is the core of our relationship with God. John should know this, as he is self-described as the disciple Jesus loved the most. He knew that love personally.
John goes on to say “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”. One of the beautiful outcomes of a growing understanding of God is the realisation that we don’t need to fear God. Rather we discover grace, forgiveness, freedom and acceptance in him.
We need not be ashamed if the beginning or our journey with God was born of fear! Yet we also need to make sure we don’t stay in the place of fear or create a theology and religious practice that asks others to fear God too. God is indeed, love.