Monday, July 4, 2011

Love Transforms

At church on Sunday, we talked about God, fear, and love. James pointed out that fear certainly motivates people– it motivates us to strive and do everything in our power to get things right. But love transforms. Love is what makes it possible for real change to happen on the inside. One of my favorite scriptures was used; it is part of a beautiful passage in 1 John about the love of God. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

For probably all of human history, people have used fear to motivate others, and I’m sure we have all been motivated by fear ourselves. But fear is a horrible basis for a relationship with God, or with anyone else, for that matter. God disciples us and transforms us with his love, not with the fear of punishment. Read that passage again: There is no fear in love… for fear has to do with punishment. 
It seems to me that when scripture tells us such things about God, his character, and how he disciples us, we should sit up and take note. Because just as God treats us, so are we to treat others. 1 John also says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us.” When we allow our treatment of others to reflect the love God has shown us, people see God through us.

This is a great reminder of how to relate to the people we encounter and/or have relationships with throughout life. Love others. Reflect the love that God has shown us. Relate to people through love, rather than trying to motivate or influence them through fear. In a way, it reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the man whose enormous debts were forgiven, yet this man who was forgiven so much went out and demanded smaller debts from others. He did not treat others with the same amazing forgiveness and mercy he himself had been given. If God has given us mercy, forgiveness, grace, and love, how can we justify treating others with anything less?

As Christians, our responsibility is not to try to change other people’s hearts through fear; it is to draw close to God, to show the love of God to others, and to allow the fruit of the Spirit to be reflected in our words and actions.

When scripture talks about how followers of Christ are to treat others, I always consider what this means for me as a parent in my relationship with my children. In my next post, I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the transforming love of God and how that relates to my role as a parent.

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