Friday, October 26, 2007

Love and Fear -The Great Escape

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (I John 4:18)

Ever dissect this scripture before? Ever take a good long hard look at what John is saying here? Well I did about 2 weeks back and I came to some conclusions.

(1) Fear and love should not co-exist in a relationship. Someone should not say they have to ‘fear someone’ to ‘love them’ or ‘love them due to fear’. John makes it abundantly clear ‘that one who fears is not perfected by love’ – they are not getting all they can from that relationship.

(2) Love and fear are opposites. Love does not lead you to fear nor does fear lead you to love. Perfect loves casts out fear or you could also say fear casts out love. These two ideas are not bed-mates nor do they like hanging out – one usually drives the other away.

(3) The idea we can be saved by ‘fear tactics’ will not result in the idea we ‘will know God’ – since God is love. If someone comes to God to escape hell (punishment) there is no guarantee that same person will correctly portray God (who is love – not fear) – since the fear is a misrepresentation of God’s character. Fear leads to superstition; love leads to freedom.

We talk about the ‘fear of God’ but I think this is a normal beginning – there is a huge element of unknown concerning God. But to remain in fear is like to remain a child who is scared of the dark – not knowing the dark won’t hurt you (you just can’t see). Love is the steps towards God and finding out what the depth of God is (what life is all about and what it all means). Fear does not have depth – it has punishment – and that’s all there is to know.

Can the idea of love replace the idea of fear in the Christian world as the core idea in salvation? Why do we as humans want to hold so tightly onto fear?


BrotherKen said...

I see God as perfect in all things. God is perfect in love and fear, punishment and reward, rejection and acceptance. Many can only see God as love and that is because we see so much wrong with fear, yet fear is what drives many of us toward God, where we find true love. We see fear used in politics and business to bolster personal agendas and we know this is wicked, but does that mean that God is driving a personal agenda when He says that "the wages of sin is death"? Is He not warning us of the dangers of sinful ways out of love?

So I must disagree with you when you say that fear does not lead us to love. Yes, "love casts out fear", but is not fear a unique heart condition given us by our creator to show us our need for Him? And once we know the love of God, do we not do well to remember what it was like without Him?

I do fear God. I fear what He can do to me if I were to turn from Him. Yet I do not dwell on that fear, I spend much more time relishing in His promise of eternal life. His love is overwhelming but He does have a bite that will correct us when we wonder from His ways.

bruced said...

"Why do we as humans want to hold so tightly onto fear?"

Because we don't trust love. It sounds too good to be true, so we assume it isn't.

I like how you're thinking!

Andrew said...

Great post. I know there is a tendency to run around scripture to prove the opposite of what you are saying. However, I agree with Walter Bruggeman when he talks about selecting the "better" text. I think you have chosen the better, and some would take it from you.

Bart Campolo did a great article on this point (it got him labeled a heretic, so I knew it was good).

BrotherKen said...

My response on Bart Campolo's article;

I can understand how hard it is to accept that God could allow some not to be saved. And how could an all powerful God allow such cruel things to happen to those He loves? These are tough questions and they challenge everyone who seeks to know God. I have come to my own conclusions and I would not want to compel others to agree with me. Somehow we all have to reconcile that fact that there is evil in this world though, and we must decide on what to believe about the scripture that tells us there is a consequence for choosing our own way rather than God's way.

I agree that it is wrong to go around yelling "Choose Jesus Christ or burn in hell!", but if someone asks me what I believe, I must tell them what it says in the Bible. Actually, I believe the consequence is more likely just as most of the text describes it, death. Not some eternal torture, but simply non-existence. But however you reconcile this, I do not think you will show me there is a better way to think of it.

God may in the end save all people, even the rapist and the murderer. Whoever this God is and whatever His plan, I can only resolve to do my best to love Him and others as myself. The rest I will leave to Him.

SocietyVs said...

"So I must disagree with you when you say that fear does not lead us to love" (Ken)

I think fear is the beginning of getting to know God - like I mention - I think we all start there. But to stay there and hold onto those ideas makes no sense in light of Jesus' life and the fact John calls God 'love'.

"I do fear God. I fear what He can do to me if I were to turn from Him." (Ken)

I would ask why and to what depth? To what level does the fear define your friendship with God?

"I like how you're thinking!" (Bruced)

Thanks Bruce - I really did appreciate a lot of the stuff you wrote!

"selecting the "better" text." (Andrew)

I think you may be right - but I am only focusing on how it has happened for me. I began in fear of God - then I grew to see a God of love - from then on - fear was something I chipped away at. I see love as the dominating characteristic of God - and my focus has always remained there - and I think because all my spiritual experiences pointed me in that direction - never did I have an experience where I seen God in a vicious light...he seems 'good'.

My problem with the focus on fear is it causes good religious people do to some very God-forsaken things in the 'name of God'. Suicide bombers trying to get to heaven, abortion clinic attacks, plural marriages in Mormon societies, overt control and rigidness in church structure, denouncing of gay people (even hating them), keep separate from society, etc.

People do the majority of those things because they 'fear God'. None of that stuff makes any sense to the one who loves God and his/her neighbor. We stop trying to hurt one another when we see God is not about fear - but love - and we start denouncing murder, arson, hatred, sexism, elitism, bullying, and violence. Those things aren't loving...they are destroying us and the communities around us. Is this what God wants?

If I still functioned under the idea of fear I would be very superstitious and possibly support things that divide the human race one against another - if not actively help in that destruction. That would be no lie either - I know how fear can make one see something that isn't there...for the sake of being obedient (to God).

For me what is troubling is the way Jesus is portrayed in the gospels and how he is portrayed in churches - now there's someone we should follow - and we see someone at peace with both humanity and his relationship with God - no fear controlling him - even unto death we still don't see the fear having control. Shouldn't that alone speak volumnes?

SocietyVs said...

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27 - also see verse 1 in that same chapter)


BrotherKen said...

There is no doubt that we find true love and peace in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. As I am able to, I "live in Christ'. I respond to what I perceive from Him and not from this world.

That message is overwhelmingly one of love and peace, but can we say that Jesus did not hate? He hated the mockery the money changers made of His church. He hated the pharisees that made a mockery of His laws.

This is why is say that I see God as perfect in love and hate/fear. I agree that we must be careful not to embrace fear, but can we really remain in love without remembering that which God hates?

Let's take poverty for example. God obviously hates poverty and has commanded us to be charitable. Out of our hate (of poverty) we act in a loving manner by our charity. Can we really separate the two? As things are today, can we say that fear and hate have no role in our lives? I agree it should not be the dominating role, but until such a time as there is no more sin and pain, I ask again; do we not do well to remember what it was like without Him?

SocietyVs said...

"but can we say that Jesus did not hate?" (Ken)

Now that's interesting - did Jesus hate people? I don't think so - I think he disliked the ideas of certain people - but hating those same people - I am not sure about that. Jesus never once comes out and says God hates you to anyone - not even the Pharisees.

"but can we really remain in love without remembering that which God hates?" (Ken)

I think so - what is the driving force behind God - hate or love? God can dislike poverty but I can see why also - poverty hurts people - and sometimes leads to their demise. It seems to me the driving force behind wanting to 'help the poor' is love - not obedience due to hatred of it.

But maybe God hates certain things - and if so - what do you think they are? And if God does hate - doesn't that give me the same right also to hate? This is the slippery slope of judgement my friend and how we can live with a faith that actually endorses hatred?

For me, I see the inherent problem coming from a community that was almost 'hated' off this planet due to Christian ideals of God liking and disliking certain things. It went from this culture is bad, these religious practices are bad, to these people are pagans, savages, and heathens - which resulted in what we have today in Canada between Aboriginals and Canadian society. They refused to accept us because 'we were not like them' and 'they represented God'. So yeah hate usually tends to backfire.

I will say this - my mother taught me not to use the word hate or to hate - because she knew what it meant to be 'hated' (by priests and nuns) in a residential school in the 50's. Maybe she was wise from experience and I am am wise for listening.

bruced said...

I "live in Christ' [ken]

I used to think this way, but I have come to a different understanding. I believe that Christ "lives in me"... whether I like it or not. And that He lives in you all too!.. whether you like it or not.

With that, Christ in me salutes Christ in you! We are all brothers and sisters in the Creation of God!

Andrew said...

I like that Bruced. It would really help for me to think that way when looking at someone like Mark Driscoll or the Pyro Dudes who lay claim to the name of Christ along with me, yet in so many ways we could not be more different. To look past the self to Him who is not far from each one of us.

chris said...

Yeah, what my buddy Bruce said!!!

SocietyVs said...

Oh my God - Chris how's it going man? Haven't seen you in a while.

chris said...

hey, bro! I've been real busy with the new job and all!

chris said...

I'm still reading your blog all the time, though!

SocietyVs said...

Chris, that's good to hear - all I knew your blog was gone and I had no clue where you went. Glad to hear about the new job and I hope that this a stepping stone to more happiness for you and your family.

Yael said...

I'm going to cut in on your comments here. Great topic to start prior to Shabbat, Jason. I was busy studying for hours last night, having a good time. Now that Shabbat is over I can join the conversation.

The conclusions I reached as a result of my studies were quite different than yours.

(1) Fear and love should not co-exist in a relationship.

I have to disagree. They do both exist, and should both exist in our relationship with God. Torah tells us to do both.

(2) Love and fear are opposites.

Yes they are, but I would say opposite sides of the same coin. They don't work in opposition of each other but instead work quite well together.

(3) The idea we can be saved by ‘fear tactics’ will not result in the idea we ‘will know God’ – since God is love.

There is no concept of salvation in Torah other than actual real salvation from danger or death so this one I won't say much about other than the purpose of love and fear is not our direct personal benefit or even for God's direct personal benefit.

The conclusions we reach are different, but we also define the terms differently which I would say is the reason for our disagreeing.

My conclusions are long posts in their own rights, too long for posting as comments here. I'm including links if anyone is curios to read:

Loving God

Fearing God

Thank you, Jason. This was a great topic for me to study. I went into it with one view, I came out of it with a totally different understanding. I think you will enjoy my posts.

chris said...

Thanks, Jason! I'm working at a rehab center, and though I love it, it's very challenging. It takes up so much of my time that I just don't feel like blogging anymore. I probably should have said goodbye to everyone, but I have done that in the past only to return a month later. I still visit your blog all the time. I don't always comment, but I'm listening!

Zeke said...

Jason, you've striking a chord with me on this one. I've never been able to truly hold the duality of perfectly loving/perfectly "just" because the concept of God's justice meaning that everyone who ever lived since Adam deserves--as in justice demands eternal punishment. I just don't get that, never did, almost certainly never will.

BrotherKen said...

Jason, I did not say that we should hate people. My mother also taught me not to use the word hate and I think that is wise to teach children as they are not yet at the age of discerning things of this world that they should hate. What things should we hate? Well the simple answer is anything which God hates. I hate greed, deception, gossip, poverty, crime, etc. I hate the fact that there are many that do not know the love of God. Does not all of this hate come out of love?

Yet I think you were more specifically addressing the topic of fearing God, which I do think CAN BE (but not necessarily) a healthy fear to have. Off to read what Yael wrote on the subject before I tackle that one.

BrotherKen said...

"Fearing God more than they feared Pharoah helped these women defend the defenseless in the face of the powerful." Yael (from his article on fearing God)

I can't think of much to add to that article Yael, excellent analysis. The statement above helps me to understand how it can be healthy to fear God.

I wrestled with this for a long time and maybe we are all meant to. I can tell you that my fear of God enhances my love for Him, and I think I see that in what Yael wrote also.

SocietyVs said...

"I hate greed, deception, gossip, poverty, crime, etc." (Ken)

Have you ever wondered what causes a human to do such things? Could it be they never had anyone help them out of that funk - have compassion my brother on them - as Jesus said 'they know NOT what they DO'. Of them we speak, of them I was one.

I agree Ken, but I cannot see God as hating someone - maybe something - as in the ideas you point to - but those exist in theory - real people committ those actions.

Just this week I saw an Indian brother take 7 years (he was 17 years old) instead of 2 for vehicular homicide because 'the punishment did not fit the crime' in his words. He felt a sorrow that could not be quenched - but to me - he is someone that stood up and took what he had coming (I can respect that). I actually think he made more amends in that act than in saying 'sorry'.

But to me, God is love and not fear. I know fear of a loved one - my father. My dad was physically abusive and caused in me a true hatred for him - but because of the fear he tried to put in me - I can never respect that. I would've rather 'killed that' than 'respect it' - even at the age of 10 I thought this. When he died (I was 10) - I never shed a tear - he was hateful - I smiled and was glad (a few of us in my family were). But now I have that chance to 'kill that' and I do - fear did nothing for me - except cripple my emotions and love for others. I lived with fear - I touched fear - it does nothing for you.

But once I learned the 'love that God is' at the age of 20 - I dropped my hatreds for forgiveness, my bitternesses for compassion, and my problems for did that. I got to know God at 18 - but never knew God until 20 - that's the year I learned God is love.

Few people know this about me - but I has a spiritual experience concerning this issue. I prayed to God and asked 'show me love' because "I never knew love' (when I was 20). It was after that day I never questioned God's love again - I knew compassion - I could see the hurts of others and I felt that pain within them. I knew why people did the 'evil' things they did - they were hurt and knew no other way at that point - it's the sole reason I forgive my mom and dad for their lack of good parenting. I found out they were hurt and reacted in what they knew - but I did not know this (I was a child).

I can never look back from the perspective of love - to do so - for me - would betray the things I learned from God. God loves - even when we cannot - He still does - and I take comfort in that - so much so - I can comfort others with a 2nd hand knowledge.

Yael said...

Yael (from his article on fearing God)

Her, Ken. Her. :>)

It also helped me. I've had real struggles with the concept of a God who says I'm supposed to fear God. When I studied and saw that the fear is not so God can be all big and bad with me groveling at God's feet, so to speak, but is instead a safeguard in place to make sure all are cared for in this world, it all makes sense. I can love this God, too. That's a good God, and you're talking to someone here who doesn't always see God as so good.

BrotherKen said...

Yes Yael, it makes sense to me also.

Jason, I am so sorry that you went through that in your childhood. I can not even imagine what you went through. Thank God for His healing in your spirit!

I don't mean to make it sound simple, and I don't mean to convince you that you must see things as I do, I may be wrong.

I can tell you though, that when my children were young I raised my voice, displayed anger and even patted them on the bum at times. I know this is not what you describe from your father, there is a difference between cruelty and correction.

I tried to write a comparison to "appropriate correction from a parent" and how God corrects us and it didn't quite work. But I think there is a commonality in the fact that we as children of God and children of human parents need some correction from time to time. I know that I stayed away from getting in trouble more than once because of a fear of what Dad would do to me.

BrotherKen said...

Jason, I posted a more thorough analysis of this on my blog. God bless!

SocietyVs said...

I am aware I have a lot to learn about the ideas of fear and love co-existing - and they likely do (I need to look deeper into this). I thank you Yael and Ken for all your thoughts on the idea - I think it was a great discussion and I know for a fact I have a ways to go yet to learn this concept (ex: I am not a father yet - so I see one perspective at this point).

Yael said...

Ecclesiastes 3:11 God makes everything beautiful in its season. Not before.

Yael said...

I added one last comment to my post to emphasize society as a whole over the individual. On re-reading my post I don't think I brought this out as I should have.