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.”