Fear impacts lives both individually and corporately. Take the church, for example. For centuries, organized religion (of all faiths) has taken advantage of people’s fear of death, fear of the unknown, and fear of isolation to create a dependence upon the church.
Early in his life, Martin Luther struggled with his vision of an angry God. Having been raised by tremendously strict parents, where being beaten was a regular occurrence, Luther viewed God in much the same light as he viewed his parents – as one he desperately tried to appease, but failed to do so.
In modern times, Christianity is sometimes viewed in much the same way. Confusing God and Santa Claus, there is this “you’d better watch out” mentality, that God is always watching to see if we’ve been “bad or good” which is to motivate us to “be good.” Fear – in implicit and explicit ways, is used as a motivator.
It wasn’t until Luther studied Romans that he experienced his “aha moment.” The first verse that caught his attention was Romans 1:17, where it says “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” Then he read:
For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.
Instead of a wrathful God looking for a reason to punish us, God was revealed to be one of intense love, mercy and forgiveness. For he gave his own Son (or from a more Trinitarian point of view, he gave himself) as a sacrifice of atonement on the cross. In Christ, we have no need to fear, for our God loves us totally and completely – in spite of our imperfection.
So if you have heard people use God’s name to stir fear in someone else, or have found yourself thinking that way personally, recall Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. “Be good” because that’s what a beloved child of God looks like! Love others as Christ has first loved us.
Let us pray,
Lord God, your love drives out all fear. Help us to embrace that truth and exemplify it to others. We pray in the name of the one who died on our behalf, Jesus Christ our Lord,
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Tags: devotions, fasting, fear, Lent, worry