I confess this topic really bothers me; that the God of such extravagant Love whom I worship and adore, would seemingly have no trouble “stooping” to use such a tactic as fear – in order to accomplish His desires and purposes.
It is put in stark and brutal terms: LOVE me (is it even conceivably logical to “command” love??) or I shall kill you. Or my law will do it; or the consequences of your acts will do it. Doesn’t matter. Fear is induced as motive for salvation… Salvation is good; so anything in it’s service must also be good. —> therefore fear must be good at some salvific level.
Boy does this make me uncomfortable… Philip Yancey writes about the blessings of pain; it is a kind of protective warning sign of things gone amiss. Listen to it, and you will benefit. Pain informs you that something is wrong and compels one react. To move, change, alter course, divert. It’s self preservation in a nutshell. Pain saves lives. Pain, much as we dislike it then, is our friend.
Does fear work like that?
The precise moments of pain – and of fear – are not pretty, nor overtly desirable. It is dissonance, disorder, anguish. One’s only impulse, at such times, is to remove oneself from this environment. Quickly. Pain is ugly. And so is Fear. Yet their benefits are obvious and unarguable. Pain can save; might Fear also work this way??
More sobering, can one detest a thing – yet be grateful for it all at once??
This is what seems to be involved with God, fear, and our ultimate salvation. I’m imagining that it breaks God’s heart – in ways we can only imagine in vague shadows – that He must engage the inferior tact of fear to effect our eventual conviction. I’m further guessing that His preferred mechanism is the positive force of Love. (But does Love, looking forward as it does, feeling guilt if it must, out of necessity, bend to use fear to accomplish it’s purpose??)
Ahhh: the perpetual problem for me… Are the problems of life, problems through which God ultimately redeems and reconciles us, (as a Universalist, I think it must be so) therefore problems ordained and blessed by God?? For me, this is a dangerous precipice indeed; fall on one side and God has ordained evil. Fall on the other, and God has no control and is left to scramble and pick up the shattered pieces of our disastrous choices. Somehow, SOMEHOW, somehow… God neither ordains evil, nor is commanded by it. In His sovereignty, He allows it (evil) and gently shepherds we who are caught in evils cross-currents through the confusing waters, back to the home He has prepared for us.
Yes, I cringe at and shrink away from Evangelism that overuses the tool of fear. Fear, it seems is negative, repulsive, overly concerned with self. Love, on the other hand, seems far preferable to God’s character.
What do you think? Does fear, which has NO place in God’s eternal Kingdom, have it’s proper place here on Earth, in God’s service, and to His good ends? Or, is fear always a sign of the enemy; foreign, selfish, and destructive.