A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Are You Afraid of God?

1 John 4:17-18, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. (18) There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

The fear of the Lord is a good thing — if it is the right kind.  Proverbs says that it is the beginning of wisdom, and the Apostle Paul tells us that one characteristic of wicked people is that there is no fear of God before their eyes (Rom 3:18).  That’s the good kind of fear of God.  I’m not sure that it is exactly the same thing many of us heard as children just before a spanking — “I’ll put the fear of God in you!”   I never was clear on the connection between the belt and God.

But for a Christian, there is another fear of the Lord that we just need to be done with.  Not the fear that means respect and awe of who God is, but as John puts it, the fear that has to do with punishment.  In Christ, we can have total confidence that on the Day of Judgment, we who are enveloped in the righteousness of Jesus Christ need not be afraid.  In Christ, God loves us.  It is love for Him and a sense of His love for us that is to overwhelm our thoughts when we think about the Lord.  Not fear of judgment and wrath.  That kind of fear, John says, is connected with punishment.  But Jesus has taken our punishment, and therefore to the degree that we are still afraid of God’s punishment, we are not perfected in understanding His love for us.  Because of Christ, God will NEVER come flying into our room, belt in hand, ready to whip the fear of Him into us.

Now — the abuse connection.  Abuse victims have been told for many years, perhaps almost daily, that they need to be afraid.  Afraid of punishment.  So they walk on eggshells around their tormentor.  He rules them by fear.  Just the threat of punishment is enough to maintain that reign and if he senses a lack of fearful cowering, he can always whip out the old belt or whatever other terror tactic he chooses, and ignite that fear very easily.   Day after day, year after year, you live in fear.  You learn to be afraid.

Not only does this ongoing fear hurt the victim’s physical health, it does great damage to her spiritual health.  To her thoughts about the Lord.  About what He thinks of her.  She is afraid of him.  It can be tough to shake the idea that God is the great abuser when you have lived in constant fear.

But if you are in Christ and belong to Him, radical changes have taken place.  One of them is described by the Apostle Paul:

Romans 8:15-16, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (16) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

The old days of our condemnation under the Law of God — a just condemnation by the way — are over.  In Christ, we are adopted by God as His children, and we address Him with affection, and He us.  God is our Father.  Love is what characterizes our relationship with Him now.  Judgment ended at the Cross.  Christian, God is not mad at you.  You do not need to be afraid of Him.  Reverence Him, yes.   Reflect His holiness in our lives, yes.  But fear His belt?  Never!

Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

9 Comments

  1. kaydtay

    Hallelujah! I have learned that the voice of the Holy Spirit is quiet, wooing and patient. When I “hear” a shaming, condemning voice in my mind – I am learning to recognize it as the evil one – not God’s Spirit. For many years, just about everything I did or didn’t do brought fear that I might get in trouble, screamed at, shamed, etc. That fear is pretty much gone. It is wonderful to live in peace and know God’s spirit addresses me with love and grace.

    • Jeff Crippen

      And so it turns out that maturity in Christ wears a smile, not a frown. So often it seems we have this all turned around. Thanks Kaydtay.

  2. Oh this is good, good, good! What a blessing to start my morning with this post!! I think you’ll find it reposted soon …. tee hee.

  3. Just had this conversation with the Lord on the back porch. I’m constantly expecting to be punished– perhaps not with a belt, but by being ignored, my prayers not heard, His presence removed. I’m afraid of offending the Lord to the point I won’t bring my worries, doubts, fears and ugly thoughts to Him and if a few spill out, I figure I’m in for at least a three day shunning until I get my attitude straight.

    So who does *that* sound like? Not my loving heavenly Father, that’s for sure.

    • Jeff Crippen

      We know, or should know by now, that the Lord is not like that — ready to slap us down or shun us based upon our performance. But I know I still live far too much of my life in this kind of thinking and it weighs us down terribly. It is like a superstition in a way, treating God as if He responds to my “good luck charms” of my performance or lack thereof. Yet Jesus has told us, and I have read these verse many times: Matthew 6:5-7 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (6) But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (7) “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

      We don’t give snakes to our children when they ask for bread. Yet I think of God being less good and kind when it comes to my requests. And, like you, my battle is with thinking God really doesn’t like me, and knows all about my thoughts and actions and…. well, is usually upset with me. Those are my thoughts so often. I KNOW it isn’t true, and yet I still battle this. I guess it comes down to not having as deep of an understanding of His grace as I need. He did love me before I ever knew Him, while I was still a sinner and hated Him.

  4. kaydtay

    Ida Mae – exactly! Your heavenly father takes you on his lap, puts his arms around you and listens, comforts, supports and gives wisdom. He is not only our father, but also our true husband

    • Sweet Ida Mae, can you even imagine ignoring, turning your back or shunning your precious children if they came to you, whether in anger, repentance, full of questions or just ‘because?” You’d scoop them up on your lap, if they would fit 😉 and love them, rocking them, singing them sweet songs of tenderness, just like your dear Heavenly father longs to do for you. He will never shun you, shame you, or ignore you. Not in His nature. Not one little bit. GOD IS LOVE. And, dear one, that is a promise I’ll bet my life on xo

  5. Finding Answers

    No matter how many times I read the post and comments generated, I have difficulty receiving the truth.

    I am so used to giving, I don’t know how to receive…..

    • Finding Answers

      (Extreme airbrushing…..)

      I still struggle to balance giving with receiving. God created me to give. Yet I also know I need to receive, something I am beginning to learn.

      If I wasn’t absolutely obedient to the Holy Spirit, I would risk my increasing strength and health by pushing myself too hard in any number of directions. And then of what use would I be in God’s ministry plans for me?

      Adding new emotions increases my struggle for balance between giving and receiving. My heart’s desire to give has grown by leaps and bounds, again, in any number of directions.

      The Holy Spirit tells me once my adjustment to the addition of emotions is complete, the change will be more like using an on-off switch then the gradual increase experienced from using a dimmer switch.

      I still will need to balance giving with receiving, and – like all who give – I will need to monitor my health. The paradigm will have shifted though…..I will no longer need such long stretches of silence, nor such long stretches of recovery.

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