Fear is a powerful motivator, but it’s not always as effective as it could be. When I think of fear as a motivator, I think of the times I’ve had to cover my tracks because I was afraid someone would discover something I did wrong. It’s not usually the best way to convince people to do things.
It’s not the best way to make friends, although I’ve met a number of people who use it to their advantage. They have a list of rules or standards that you have to meet as a friend or else they’ll disown you. It’s not the way to be a family, fearing excessive punishment for imperfection. It’s not even the best way to run a business. I guess there is some use in fearing for your job, but if your employees spend all their time afraid that their next day will be their last, the quality of their work will decrease.
Those are all examples of how fear doesn’t really work in relationships, and I thought about many of them when I read the verse for today.
1 John 4:18
18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
But what I thought about first is the concept of religion. There is no love in religion. Have you ever thought about that? Religion is a set of do’s and don’t’s, ritual law with no real meaning behind it. It clings to traditions that it has forgotten the purpose of. And it holds its victims in check with fear.
If you don’t dress a certain way, you won’t be saved. If you don’t follow these rituals, you won’t be saved. If you don’t read the right translation of the Bible, you won’t be saved. If you don’t live the way you’re supposed to, your next life will be miserable. If you don’t control your anger, you’ll never reach Nirvana.
No matter what religion you’re talking about, they are all the same. They rule people with fear. And while fear can be a great motivator, it’s not effective because people want more than a God they’re scared of.
I always wondered about the people who sacrified their children in ancient times. It always seemed amazing to me that a mother could lack the maternal instincts enough to kill her own child. It still surprises me now in today’s world, but we’ve had generations of indoctrination telling women that babies aren’t really babies. So on one hand, I’m guess it’s not too unexpected that a mother could kill her child before it’s born. But in ancient times (and even today still in some parts of the world), infants were sacrificed after they were born healthy. How could a mother do that?
Could it have been fear? People do crazy things when they’re afraid. And prevailing religion at the time was to sacrifice your children or your soul would be lost.
Religion is the most dangerous weapon in the world because it enslaves people to either a distant, uncaring God or a tyrannical, bloodthirsty God who demands obediance but gives nothing in return.
That’s why I hate religion. Religion has destroyed so many lives and turned so many people against God, and that was never the way it was supposed to be. Religion is a tool of man used to control other people. Wear this. Sing that. Read this. Do that. Or else. And it’s not right.
Please don’t misunderstand me. God is a God of wrath and definitely worthy of our fear. Think of the person you respect the most. Would you approach that person with impudence? Would you treat them rudely or demand things of them or not give them the credit they deserve? Of course not! So how much more should you respect God when He’s the one Who created the Universe? No. God is a God who we should definitely be afraid of — but it’s not the same kind of fear.
Religion has told us that God punishes people. He doesn’t. We punish ourselves. We suffer punishment because we have sinned or because the world is just broken.
God is perfect, holy justice and that which is imperfect or unjust can’t be in His presence. But that’s why He sent Jesus. To make us perfect. To make us holy. To show us how much God loves us. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are able to approach God on a one-on-one basis (not face to face yet but someday soon). We don’t need anyone to talk to God for us. We don’t need anyone to explain the Bible to us. If Christ is your Savior, God is your Father. And He’s more than that. He’s your Dad.
God wants to have a relationship with us. That’s why He created us. He loves us so intensely that He was willing to give Himself to pay the penalty for our sin.
I’m sorry, folks, but that doesn’t sound like fear to me. That doesn’t sound like a relationship that demands exacting obediance and then returns nothing. That doesn’t sound like religion based on fear of damnation.
There is a choice. Believe or don’t believe. One will save you. The other one will condemn you. But Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world. The world was already condemned. He came to make a way for us to be saved. And He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. If you’re forced to take a gift, is it still a gift that you have accepted? There’s no point in that.
Perfect love expels all fear.
God’s love is perfect. So don’t be afraid.