by Tim Archer
It’s interesting to watch my dogs when I go out to work in our yard. At first, they are thrilled that I am spending time with them. They dance and jump and beg for attention.
Then I pick up a tool, and everything changes. Their joy turns to terror. One of our dogs lived on the street before we took her in; I’m guessing she suffered some abuse during that time. The other dog, her daughter, follows her mother’s lead, fleeing in fear when they see me armed with a shovel or a rake.
It is a continuous cycle of rejoicing and fear. I put down the tool for a moment, and they are immediately there, craving my affection. As soon as I start back to work, they run for cover.
The thought crossed my mind that this was how ancient peoples lived. They had deities that they looked to for provision and protection. Yet the ancients saw these gods as easily angered, quick to lash out capriciously. The people praised their gods and gratefully accepted the blessings of rain and a bountiful crop. But they fled from them when the deities seemed to be displeased.
We don’t have to live in fear of him, waiting for him to zap us when we make a mistake. Thinking about this almost schizophrenic relationship between worshipers and their gods, I realized that some people still view our God that way. If you do everything just right, God will be pleased with you, allowing you to enjoy his blessings. But if you do something to displease him, he will strike you down or bring disaster on your loved ones.
That’s not who God is. We don’t have to live in fear of him, waiting for him to zap us when we make a mistake. Yes, our God is a just God who will punish sin. But for those of us who seek him, who enter into a relationship with him, he is merciful and good. His love frees us from fear.
The apostle John wrote: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Seek God. Run to him with all the enthusiasm my dogs show when I step out the back door. Love him and learn to live in his love. John also recorded these words of Jesus: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). We’ll learn to do what Jesus wants; not out of fear of a heavenly thunderbolt, but out of love.