Which is more likely to thrive – a relationship founded on fear, or one grounded in love and openness?
Just as reigns of terror are inevitably unsustainable, a relationship fostered on fear (and by that I mean a never-ending cycle of reward and punishment for good / bad behaviour) can neither grow nor prosper.
And the reason is simple.
Fear usually leads to more darkness – wrongdoing, greater pain, and seemingly irreconcilable differences.
As stated by Clare Carlisle in the Guardian newspaper in December 2013, “The most powerful aspect of Bertrand Russell’s critique of religious belief is his claim that religion is based on fear, and that fear breeds cruelty.”
Although Russel was an atheist who frequently denounced God, one cannot disagree with his view regarding the correlation between fear and cruelty.
An unfortunate outcome of focusing purely on law and regulation, for fear of what may or may not happen if one errs, is that love for God and people in general, inadvertently dissipates; more often than not leading to a tendency to judge others. As a result, the probability of unkind and cruel behaviour increases.
In other words, just like in the world of social media where people are all-too quick to make judgement and bring others down, the same can be said of us Christians.
The more we see God as a master of reward and punishment, the less we relate with his mercy and kindness; and as such, our propensity for love, tolerance, and kindness diminishes.
Sadly, we Christians are often the worst advert for Christianity.
We all too often portray a false perception of perfection. As such, not only do we put people off Christianity because of our penchant for appearing ‘holy’, due to our ability to obey (note, ‘our ability‘ – pride), but we inadvertently set ourselves up for an almighty fall.
A Christian is as human as anybody else, and hence, will most certainly make mistakes. Plenty of them!
And it is this reality of making mistakes we need to accept. Indeed, it is one we should convey to the world!
You and I are human. We make mistakes. That is why Jesus died for us. If we were capable of living perfect lives, there would have been no need for Jesus to die for us.
So, why do we continue to put so much pressure on ourselves?
Why do we live in constant fear of not attaining the required standard of performance?
The answer lies in how we perceive God.
Yes, we know Jesus is a God of love and mercy who died for all our sins. Indeed, as a result of the certainty of his love, where Jesus is concerned, we’re fairly content and at ease.
But despite the fact they are one, when it comes to God, we’re not so sure. Somehow, we believe God the Father is far more harsh; much tougher to please, and a ruthless disciplinarian.
If you’ve been living in fear for many years, then this message is for you.
God is Jesus.
The Jesus of love, mercy, and humility is God’s exact character.
‘The son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God,’
Hebrews 1 vs 3
If you want to know God’s character, look no further than Jesus. They are like for like.
‘He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds you are healed.’
Isaiah 53 vs 5
Does this sound like a cold, distant God?
Do the above verses imply a God who is not only insensitive to our situations but constantly looking for opportunities to punish?
Or do these words portray a God who enjoys withholding good things from us as a result of our inability to perform?
No, no, and no again.
The character of God the Father is one of Love, kindness, mercy, patience, and faithfulness (in his love for us).
If you’re keeping your distance from God because of a perceived unworthiness, come back to him.
Because Jesus has already paid the price for All your sins, and the punishment he took on the cross has bought and secured God’s everlasting peace with you.
He is completely at peace with you; not unhappy, disappointed, or angry, but at peace (with you).
You no longer need to be fearful of God, but rather, embrace his love, and freely relate with him.
There is no greater healer than his love.